Dog Bite Memo

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Memorandum

|To: |Senior Associate | |From: |Hung-Yuan, Chiu – Section 2 | |Date: |October 28, 2012 | |Re: |Miller v. CIPA | | |False Imprisonment Litigation; Motion to Dismiss |

QUESTION PRESENTED

Under the Georgia false imprisonment statute, whether Charlene Miller has a valid claim against the Center for Independent Performers and Artists (CIPA) when the security guards (1) searched Charlene suspecting her of having stolen a CD; and (2) confiscated the iPhone for inspection suspecting her illegal recording?

BRIEF ANSWER

Probably no. The Georgia false imprisonment statute requires that the plaintiff must prove, that there is a detention for any length of time and such detention is unlawful. With respect to detention, the security guard’s search of Charlene probably is a detention because the search is against Charlene’s will and she is afraid the force would be used if she did not submit to the search, even though she acquiesced to be searched. Regarding unlawfulness, the shoplifting defense of the owner applied in the instance when the guards checked Charlene for a stolen CD. We may argue that the security guard believed Charlene was committing the offense of shoplifting and the manner and length of detention by the security guard were reasonable. Therefore, the search for stolen a CD does not qualify as unlawfulness; however, an unreasonable belief of suspected shoplifting and racial profiling would allow the plaintiff to argue that the detention was wrongful and Charlene should recover. However, the confiscation of Charlene’s iPhone probably does not qualify as detention, because Charlene chose to remain at the events center and there was no restraint either by force or fear.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 5, 2012, a seventeen-years-old African-American Charlene Miller and two friends attended a concert held by CIPA at its complex near Atlanta. After the concert, as Charlene was leaving the facility, she was stopped by a private security guard. The guard told Charlene that based on observations of her behavior, she was suspected of having stolen a CD. Charlene denied stealing anything, but acquiesced in his request to ask her to be searched. Another female guard then searched her jacket and checked her handbag. No stolen CD was found. But the iPhone found in her jacket was confiscated and inspected for possible illegal recording. The guard told Charlene it would take a few hours for inspection and she could wait or return the next day to retrieve her phone. Charlene chose to wait and stay in the complex’s security office because she was worried that no transportation was available for returning to Atlanta the next day. After four hours waiting, the phone was returned and no illegal recording was found. The security guard was employed by Zero Tolerance, Inc. (ZTI), which are hired by CIPA to provide security during concerts and other events. It is said in the complaint that all of the teenagers, whose phones had been confiscated, including Charlene, were persons of color. The Millers sued CIPA in Georgia Superior Court in Atlanta for false imprisonment and claimed for compensatory damages of 100,000 USD as well as other costs and fees. CIPA filed the motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action upon for relief can be granted.

APPLICABLE STATUTE

Definition of false imprisonment:...
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