Types of Legal Claims: Tort and Negligence


Patty goes through a series of unfortunate events, starting with an unpleasant experience at her favorite store, Cash Mart. After unsuccessfully searching for a laptop in the store, she leaves in a hurry, but she is stopped and temporarily held in a room for the suspicion of shoplifting. As she gets out, Patty is hit by a golf ball that was negligently hit by Gerry Golfer, leaving her unconscious. Five days later, Patty is reprimanded for using her company’s email to send a personal message against the company policy. Frustrated, the employee uses her personal computer at home to make negative comments about her boss on social media. Such actions led to her dismissal from her job.

Tort Claims against Cash Mart

Patty can make tort claims against Cash Mart for false imprisonment. This form of claim is an intentional tort which involves deliberate acts that cause reasonably foreseeable harm. False imprisonment entails restricting a person in his or her movement within an area without their consent or reasonable cause (Bermingham & Brennan, 2014). Imprisonment may occur without actual physical restrictions in public and private circumstances. A person who is falsely imprisoned has a habeas corpus claim which allows an individual to report an unlawful imprisonment or detention in court and request for the release of the imprisoned person to be present during a court hearing.

The essential elements of false imprisonment claims that a plaintiff must prove to successfully sue for damages are: deliberate detention, lack of consent, and lack of lawful authority (Bermingham and Brennan, 2014). In this case, the plaintiff can successfully make false imprisonment claims if he or she can prove that the detention was purposely carried out in a bounded area without his or her consent, and without any legal authority. However, various jurisdictions in the U.S. apply the shopkeeper’s privilege to allow shopkeepers to detain shoplifters within their properties for a reasonable period of time. One of the conditions for the shopkeeper’s privilege to exist is that there should be a reasonable cause to believe that a person has committed or attempted to commit theft in the store. The shopkeeper should also carry out proper investigation within the property, detain the suspect within a reasonable period of time, and only use a reasonable amount of force.

Patty’s tort claim against Cash Mart meets all the elements of a false imprisonment claim. There was a willful detention within a bounded area within the premises, without the plaintiff’s consent and legal authority for the detention. Cash Mart does not have a shopkeeper’s privilege because there was no reasonable cause for the shopkeeper to believe that Patty had committed theft as required by law. Patty was just leaving the store quickly without paying for anything because he did not find what he wanted. A reasonable person would anticipate that people can leave without buying items, and the haste with which the customer left the store is not a reasonable cause enough to cause detention. Furthermore, Patty was retained for more than reasonable period of time. Only a few minutes are enough to question the customer and investigate the store to determine whether something has been stolen; but Patty was arrested for more than one hour. Therefore, Patty can successfully make false imprisonment claims and sue for compensation for the time she wasted in detention.

Negligent Claims against Gerry

Negligence refers to the lack of care in circumstances in which due care is expected based on the nature of relationships between the plaintiff and the defendant (Bermingham and Brennan, 2014). Negligent claims occur when the defendant acts carelessly, or acting without reasonable care. There are certain elements that must be fulfilled to prove negligence: duty of care, breach of such duty, damages, and causation.

According to the court in Donoghue v Stevenson, a person has a duty to exercise reasonable care not to harm a neighbor (a person who is proximately affected by one’s actions). For example, a person has the duty of care to prevent harm on his or her neighbor while playing in their premises. Therefore, Gerry who was playing golf in a nearby area has the duty of care to prevent harm against people carrying out their duties in neighboring buildings, including Cash Mart’s premises. The negligent claim also occurs if the defendant breached his or her duty of care through an action or omission. The plaintiff must also have suffered some damages or injury, and the injury should have been caused directly from the breach of duty by the defendant. Indeed, Getty had a duty of care for Patty and other neighbors, but his negligent act of hitting a golf ball directly towards where Getty was is a negligent act. The act caused injuries to Patty who became unconscious; hence Patty has a reasonable claim against Getty on the ground of negligence.

Patty’s Right to Privacy

The invasion of privacy is a tort law concept that allows a person to sue another person for intruding on his or her private issues or revealing their private information. The common law tort also enables a plaintiff to make claims against the defendant for making false publications. One of the types of invasion of privacy is the intrusion of solitude which refers to the electronic or physical interference with a person’s private space (Giliker, 2014). The claim on intrusion is successful if it has a reasonable level of offense to the person. The three elements for an intrusion claim to occur are: expectation of privacy, intrusion, deception, deception for personal gain, or fraud. The expectation of privacy includes subjective and objective expectations recognized by society or based on individual opinion.

In the case of Patty v. Acme Corporation, Patty does not have the right to privacy when using Acme Corporation’s email because there is no expectation of privacy in the company’s email. The company’s policy states that employees should not use the company’s email to send private messages. Therefore, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy if an employee sends an email using an organization’s email. Patty does not have any claim on the right of privacy although the action of the company to reprimand him was offensive because there was no expectation of privacy.

Patty’s firing

Based on the results of the case of Cason v. Baskin, the invasion of privacy claims can be successful only if there are actual damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the intrusion of privacy. Intrusion on a person’s seclusion or solitude occurs when the defendant interferes with the plaintiff’s private space or private affairs either electronically or physically (Senat, 2000). One of the elements of rights to privacy claims is the publication of private information in public space deliberately to defame or offend another person. The right to privacy claims may be successful if the defendant discloses private facts in public space. If a person reveals another person’s information which is not of public concern to offend him or her, the plaintiff can claim for right to privacy violations (Senat, 2000). True information cannot be used as a defense against claims for invasion of privacy. The defamation claim can also be made if the information revealed to the public is offensive, and likely to affect the victim’s emotional wellbeing.

Patty can be legally fired from her job for violating the privacy of her boss and Acme Corporation. The plaintiff has an expectation of privacy with her company as an employee. By posting disparaging comments about the employer, Patty violates that expectation of privacy, and is liable for the violation. Using critical information on social media against her employer is also defamatory because the plaintiff does not follow the right channels to solve the conflicts with her employer. The message posted in the social media (public space) is offensive to a reasonable person, and the company has reasonable cause of claim against the employee for posting critical information about the company in public.

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