• Smith and Roberson’s Business Law. 17th Edition · Mann/Roberts

  • Business Law

On July 31, Amanda Vaughn and Jason Vaughn accompanied their mother, Emma Simpson Vaughn, to a Walmart store. Amanda’s friend, Kimberly Dickerson, was also with them. Once they entered the store, Mrs. Vaughn and Jason went into separate areas of the store. The two girls remained together in the front of the store and selected a stamp album to purchase. Kimberly took the album to the checkout register, and while she was at the register, she also selected a pack of gum. Once Kimberly paid for her two items, they were placed in a bag and she was given her change. Kimberly testified that she did not immediately put the change in her wallet while she was at the register. Instead, Kimberly walked back into the merchandise area where Amanda had remained. Kimberly was in the merchandise area, away from the registers, when she placed her change in her purse. Kimberly proceeded to place her hand in the Walmart bag to retrieve the gum she had just purchased.

At this time, Ms. Clara Lynn Neal, a customer service manager, observed Kimberly’s hand coming out of her Walmart bag. According to Ms. Neal, because the two girls were in a somewhat-secluded area of the store, Ms. Neal walked past the two girls twice to observe them before she walked over to them.

Ms. Neal testified that she asked Kimberly if she could see her bag and her receipt and that Kimberly voluntarily gave her the bag. Plaintiffs alleged that Ms. Neal “detained the girls, snatched Kimberly’s bag from her, searched the bag, discovered a receipt, tied the bag, and then personally escorted the girls to an area near the front door away from the registers.” However, Kimberly’s testimony stated that “[Ms. Neal] said she was going to have to check my bag because she doesn’t know if I’m stealing something. So I didn’t say anything. I didn’t really give it to her because I was shocked. So she took it, and she was like searching through it.”

Once Ms. Neal checked the purchases with the receipt, the girls were told to go to the front of the store and wait for their party. The girls were never told that they could not leave the store, and the girls were not detained by anyone else. According to all parties, from the time Ms. Neal walked up to the girls, verified the purchases, and returned the bag to Kimberly, the entire incident only lasted about one minute. While the girls were waiting at the front of the store, Jason was asked by his mother to inform the girls that she was ready to go. Jason approached the girls, and they responded that they could not leave. When Jason reported to his mother that the girls stated they could not leave the area, Mrs. Vaughn then went to the front of the store to investigate. Before Mrs. Vaughn took the children home, she explained to a store manager what had occurred. Do the girls have a cause of action against Walmart? Why or why not?

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