Stripped Naked! Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress:
Alleged Shoplifter Claims Storekeeper’s Conduct was Unreasonable and Caused Him Harm
A New York man has filed a lawsuit against 7-Eleven after he was stripped naked when the shop owner suspected he had stolen goods. See a copy of the complaint here.
A Brooklyn 7-Eleven merchant detained David Golson after he suspected Mr. Golson of trying to steal a Snicker bar in October of 2012. The incident was recorded on surveillance and cell phone cameras that have been viewed over 95,000 times on YouTube.
Mr. Golson claims that a 7-Eleven clerk “hit, bit, and stripped him”. He is seeking compensation for assault, battery, and emotional distress. He claims that he was humiliated which was documented by the in-store camera.
In Massachusetts, to prevail on a claim for intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiff must show the following:
1) the defendant intended to inflict emotional distress or he or she knew or should have known that emotional distress was the likely result of his or her conduct;
2) the conduct was “extreme and outrageous”, was “beyond all possible bounds of decency”, and was “utterly intolerable in a civilized community”;
3) the actions of the defendant were the cause of the plaintiff’s distress;
4) the emotional distress sustained by the plaintiff was “severe” and of a nature “that no reasonable man could be expected to endure it.” Agis v. Howard Johnson Co., 371 Mass. 140, 144–45 (1976).
Normally, merchants can defend themselves against claims of unlawful detainment from a suspected shoplifter. However, in this case, Mr. Golson may have a viable case against 7-Eleven for a number of reasons:
1) While the merchants are legally allowed to detain Golson, they are not allowed to strip him.
2) Merchants may not bite suspected shoplifters.
3) I would argue that the conduct of the merchant in this case was beyond all possible bounds of decency.
The Golson/7-Eleven story is a great example of when one might claim intentional infliction of emotional distress. Other examples might include a landlord that harasses his tenants through verbal abuse, a debt collector that calls late at night, or a merchant that acts in an unfair and deceptive manner which causes a person to suffer emotional distress.
If you have been the victim of emotional distress, please contact Doubleday LAW today.