Paula’s Possible Legal Claims against Cash Mart and Geoffrey
False imprisonment happens when a person has been restrained against their will in a restricted area without any justification. It generally refers to confining a person without legal authority or consent of the individual. False imprisonment falls under the category of intentional torts, which are actions committed to cause harm to another (Trautman, Johnson, & Koretz, 2021). The main components of false imprisonment are unlawfully restraining an individual without their consent and legal explanation. In the case of Paula, she can make a possible claim of false imprisonment against Cash Mart due to the nature of the incident since the actions justify the essential elements of false imprisonment.
Unlawful restraint of another
False imprisonment must be deliberate or wilful. In order to prove this element of false imprisonment, there has to be evidence of the use of force or some threat during the restraining process. It is critical to note that the force doesn’t need to be real, and an implied threat of force can prove intent (Trautman, Johnson, & Koretz, 2021). In Paula’s, the security officer deliberately and physically locks her in a small room at the store’s back. Moreover, the security uses force by threatening to send Paula to jail to restrain her. Thus, the false imprisonment is intentional where the security officer deliberately locks her in a room, and the use of threat to keep her restrained.
Against their will
In this second element of false imprisonment, the “reasonable person” standard is used to prove it. It involves determining whether a reasonable person in the exact factual situation can believe that he or she is being restrained against their will (Trautman, Johnson, & Koretz, 2021). Applying the “reasonable person” standard to Paula’s actual situation, the security guard insists that she shoplifted and takes her to a tiny chamber at the store’s back, even though she denies any wrongdoings. Although it does not state whether there is another exit at the back of the store, any attempts to escape will lead to arrest and being sent to jail, as implied by the guard. Therefore, a reasonable person in the same situation will believe that they have been detained against their will.
Without legal justification
This last element involves determining the presence of a legal for the detention. In the case of shoplifting, the Shopkeeper’s Privilege provides a legal base for shopkeepers with probable cause to detain an individual for a reasonable length of time (Bildfell, 2019). Another legal base for false imprisonment can be the voluntary consent of an individual. In the specific situation of Paula, there was no probable cause of her restraint since there is no particular evidence to make a reasonable person believe she attempted or shoplifted. The security guard acted on an unreasonable suspicion because Paula did not buy any laptop and was leaving in a hurry.
Moreover, she was restrained for more than one hour, which was an unreasonable amount of time considering checking for the concealed item would have taken a few minutes. Also, Paula disagreed with being held in the small room and only heeded after the security officer insisted she was shoplifting. Therefore, Paula can sue Cash Mart for the intentional tort of false imprisonment because she was unlawfully detained by the security guard against her will, without any probable cause, and for an unreasonable amount of time.
Paula was injured in the parking lot of Cash Mart by the golf ball hit by Geoffrey from his backyard. Cash Mart had the duties of landowners to exercise reasonable care to protect people on their property from harm. Therefore, the duty element of negligence can be proved since Cash Mart had the duties of landowners. As the second element of negligence, breach of duty, can be verified by the fact that Paula was injured on Cash Mart’s parking lot, which their property. By failing to take measures such as the erection of a large wall to prevent objects from nearby places from hitting their clients or putting signs, Cash Mart could not exercise reasonable care in fulfilling their duties.
Also, there is a cause, in fact, where if Cash Mart had structures in place to prevent such objects from flying into their compounds or warning signs, then Paula would not have been hit by the golf ball. Cash Mart’s failure to exercise reasonable care to their landowner duties led to Paula’s injury. The proximate cause element of the negligence of Cash Mart can be proved by indicating that Cash Mart could have foreseen a stray ball from the backyard of a golfer next to the parking lot could have led to Paula’s injury. The final element of negligence is damages, which is the harm in the form of physical injury to the plaintiff. The failure to exercise reasonable care by Cash Mart has resulted in injury in Paula.
Negligence involves the failure of an individual to act with a level of care of a prudent person in the same factual situations. It usually consists of actions and also the omission of an act when there is a duty. There are five components of negligence that must be proved in all negligence lawsuits. Therefore, to determine whether Geoffrey was negligent or not when he stroked the golf ball that hurt Paula, all the features must be proved.
In societies, every individual has an obligation towards another. Usually, duty is an element that limits and guides behaviors in a socially responsible manner before the fact. It also gives the basis on which to judge behavior’s propriety afterward (Owen, 2006). Thus, in the case of Paula and Geoffrey, it critical to determine whether Geoffrey owed Paula the duty of care. We will evaluate Geoffrey’s duty of care using the “reasonable person” standard.
In the factual case of Geoffrey, who hits Paula with a golf ball in the Cash Mart parking lot, to prove negligence, it is vital to establish the duty Geoffrey owed to Paula. Although Geoffrey was hitting golf balls in his backyard, he can restrain the force he hits with the ball or changes the direction he is hitting the balls. With the knowledge of public space in his backyard, a reasonable person would have remedied the situation and avoid hitting the golf balls into the Cash Mart parking lot. Therefore, Geoffrey owed a duty of care to Paula.
Breach of Duty
This element of negligence involves the conduct itself and deals with Geoffrey’s omission or improper act. It implies that there is a preexisting proper behavior standard, which is key to avoiding inflicting harm to other people or their property (Owen, 2006). A person breaches their duty to another by the failure of exercising reasonable care in accomplishing the responsibility. In the case of Geoffrey, it is a fact that Geoffrey did not exercise reasonable care when hitting golf balls in his backyard since it hit Paula, who was in the Cash Mart parking lot.
Cause in Fact
In this element of negligence, one must prove that the actual cause of an injury is a result of another’s actions. It implies that the damage would not have happened was it not the actions of the other person (Owen, 2006). Thus, proving the negligence of Geoffrey requires proving that it was his actions that injured Paula. Paula was struck by golf balls that Geoffrey had launched from his backyard into the Cash Mart parking lot. Paula is knocked out when the ball strikes her on the head. Thus, Geoffrey’s golf ball was hit out of his backyard into the Cash Mart parking lot, injuring Paula’s head and rendering her unconscious.
Although it is similar to cause in fact, proximate cause is another component of negligence by itself. It usually relates to the domains of the obligation of an offender in a negligence lawsuit, where he or she is responsible for only the actions they could have foreseen (Owen, 2006). A litigant cannot demonstrate the respondent’s activities to be the proximate cause of his or her injuries if the damages instigated by the defendant are beyond the possibility of the risk he or she could have foreseen. In the specific case of Geoffrey and Paula, Geoffrey could have predicted the damages that would arise from hitting Paula with the golf in the Cash Mart parking lot. Thus, Geoffrey hitting golf balls into the Cash Mart parking lot from his backyard was the proximate cause of Paula’s head injury and unconsciousness.
To prove negligence, it is critical to establish a legally recognized harm caused to the plaintiff by the defendant’s actions. The breach of duty of care should lead to actual damages to the person owed a duty of care by the defendant (Owen, 2006). Moreover, a personal injury should be reported to the court in an appropriate timeframe. Paula was hit on the head by the ball hit by Geoffrey, causing her to become unconscious. Therefore, by causing injury to Paula’s head, Geoffrey’s failing to practicing reasonable care has resulted in injuries to the plaintiff.
Considering all the five elements of negligence, Geoffrey was negligent in striking the golf ball that harmed Paula. He breached his duty of care to Paula and failed to act with reasonable care, causing damages to Paula.
Civil Courts and Criminal Courts
Although there is a criminal case of negligence, if Paula files a negligence claim against Geoffrey, she will file it in civil court and not the criminal. The main reason for this is due to the difference in nature between criminal and civil court. Whereas civil courts entail dealing with behavior or action that causes harm to a person or other private property, criminal courts deal with acts or conduct that can be or is construed as an offense against the society, public, or the state, even in cases where the victim is an individual (Vago, 2005). Therefore, since the negligence of Geoffrey has caused harm to Paula and is civil in nature, she will take Geoffrey to a civil court.
The way cases are initiated in civil and criminal courts have significant differences. In civil courts, it is a private party that starts the cases, while in criminal courts, cases are initiated by the government or state. In the specific situation of Paula, she is the one to initiate the case, prompting her to take Geoffrey to a civil court rather than a criminal court. Also, civil courts and criminal courts differ in the burden of proof. The burden of proof in criminal courts is by the government or the state, where they are required to establish a defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” On the other hand, in civil courts, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff should establish the defendant’s liability in accordance to “preponderance of evidence” by producing evidence beyond the balance of probabilities. In this sense, since she has the burden of proof rather than the government, Paula can only take Geoffrey for negligence claims to civil courts and not criminal courts.
There is a crucial difference in the type of punishment for cases in criminal and civil cases. Civil litigation in civil courts entails types of compensation for damages or injuries, disposition of property, among others (Neubauer, & Fradella, 2018). The kind of punishment for a guilty defendant in the criminal courts includes fines and/or incarceration except in some cases where there is the death penalty. Moreover, criminal acts are broadly divided into two categories, including misdemeanors and felonies. Because the possible type of punishment for Paula’s negligence claims against Geoffrey includes compensation for injuries rather than a fine and/or incarceration, Paula will take the matter to the civil court and not a criminal court. Finally, another difference between criminal and civil courts is that while defendants in criminal courts are entitled to some legal protections such as the fifth amendment, defendants in civil courts are not.
Bildfell, C. (2019). SHOPKEEPER’S PRIVILEGE. The Canadian Bar Review, 97(3).
Neubauer, D. W., & Fradella, H. F. (2018). America’s courts and the criminal justice system. Cengage Learning.
Owen, D. G. (2006). The five elements of negligence. Hofstra L. Rev., 35, 1671.
Trautman, L. J., Johnson, V., & Koretz, L. (2021). Customer Injuries: An Introduction To Tort Law. Available at SSRN 3795841.
Vago, S. (2015). Law and society. Routledge.