South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Arresting Store Customer without Giving Customer a Reason May Be a Tort

Appeals court held that a suit for false arrest and invasion of privacy may proceed. A customer was arrested and ejected from a store when the manager wanted it cleared of customers other than the movie stars who were shopping in the store.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Invasion of Privacy; False Imprisonment; Conduct; Privilege; Celebrities

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Buchanan went into a store in Los Angeles. When celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck entered the store to shop, the manager asked Buchanan to leave, but did not give him a reason why he was asked to leave. Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, who were present because of the celebrities, asked Buchanan to leave. He argued with them. The head of store security made a citizen’s arrest of Buchanan for trespassing. The deputies then arrested him and took him outside, where there were media crews following the celebrities, so Buchanan was filmed as he was released and told he was free to go. Some media reports said that there was a stalker in the store, who was ejected. Buchanan sued the store for invasion of privacy for “parading” him before the media and for false arrest. The trial court dismissed the case, holding that the store was privileged to take the actions it did. Buchanan appealed.


Reversed. A key issue in the case is if the store’s action is communicative conduct or noncommunicative conduct. Privilege would apply only if the conduct was communicative. There is no defense of privilege for noncommunicative tortious conduct. Arresting Buchanan and evicting him from the store was unprotected conduct, not communication. The store manager simply told the deputies he wanted Buchanan arrested. He did not provide a reason other than he wanted him out of the store. That action was conduct, not communication with Buchanan, so his suit may proceed.


Buchanan v. Maxfield Enterprises, Inc., ---Cal.Rptr.3d--- (2005 WL 1415409, Ct. App., Calif., 2005)

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