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Johnson v. Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
437 F.3d 1112 (2006)


After buying a compact disk at Barnes & Noble, (defendant) Winston Johnson (plaintiff) asked a store clerk for help finding a book. When the clerk bent over to pull a book from a low shelf, Johnson touched the clerk or her shirt. Johnson claimed he was only trying to help the clerk tuck in her shirt (which she was trying to reach). The clerk claimed Johnson grabbed her buttocks. The clerk fetched two store managers and a security guard, who detained Johnson in an office for one to two hours until police arrived. Meanwhile, Johnson was interrogated, photographed, and subjected to racial remarks. The police questioned Johnson, then returned his ID and driver’s license and told him to leave. Johnson sued the bookstore for false imprisonment. He testified that he suffered embarrassment explaining the incident to his family, developed a facial twitch and insomnia, lost weight, and was banned from Barnes & Noble for the rest of his life. An expert testified that Barnes & Noble did not have any policies or procedures to prevent employees from unlawfully detaining customers or exercising unbridled discretion handling customer incidents. The jury awarded Johnson $117,000. Barnes & Noble appealed, arguing that the court should have instructed the jury on whether the store employees could make a citizen’s arrest and detain Johnson based on the misdemeanor alleged by the store clerk, and that the damages were excessive.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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