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Doe v. Safeway, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

January 28, 2014

MICHAEL DOE, et al., APPELLANTS,
v.
SAFEWAY, INC., APPELLEE

Submitted November 26, 2013.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-8936-11). (Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Trial Judge).

Michael C. Martin, II, was on the brief for appellants.

John J. Hathway, and Jerome C. Schaefer were on the brief for appellee.

Before EASTERLY, Associate Judge, and PRYOR and BELSON, Senior Judges.

OPINION

Belson, Senior Judge :

While placing items in a shopping cart before Thanksgiving on November 10, 2011, appellants Michael Doe and Terry Garner, Jr. were detained by police officers in the break room of a Safeway grocery store. Appellants filed suit against appellee, Safeway, Inc., for false imprisonment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee and dismissed appellants' case with prejudice. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Page 132

I.

" Summary judgment is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo." Han v. Se. Acad. of Scholastic Excellence Pub. Charter Sch ., 32 A.3d 413, 416 (D.C. 2011) (citing Jones v. Thompson, 953 A.2d 1121, 1124 (D.C. 2008)). It is appropriate only when there are no genuine issues as to any material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 56 (c). The record is reviewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, but " mere conclusory allegations are insufficient to avoid . . . summary judgment." Jones, supra, 953 A.2d at 1124. " If a moving defendant has made an initial showing that the record presents no genuine issue of material fact, then the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that such an issue exists." Bradshaw v. District of Columbia, 43 A.3d 318, 323 (D.C. 2012) (quoting Beard v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co ., 587 A.2d 195, 198 (D.C. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted). Rule 12-I (k) provides that the moving party submit a statement of material facts " as to which [it] contends there is no genuine issue," followed by a similar statement from the non-moving party that " contend[s] there exists a genuine issue necessary to be litigated." Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12-I (k).

A successful claim of false imprisonment requires a plaintiff to establish (1) the detention or restraint of one against his will and (2) the unlawfulness of the detention or restraint. See Enders v. District of Columbia, 4 A.3d 457, 461 (D.C. 2010).[2] When an individual or private entity that called the police regarding a person is sued for false imprisonment, the making of the call is " not enough to sustain a claim of false arrest so long as the decision whether to make the arrest remains with the police officer and is without the persuasion or influence of the accuser." Smith v. District of Columbia, 399 A.2d 213, 218 (D.C. 1979). Thus, liability exists when " by acts or words, one directs, requests, invites or encourages the unlawful detention of another." Id. Private entities and individuals will not be immune from liability, however, if they " knowingly and maliciously make false reports to the police." Vessels v. District of Columbia, 531 A.2d 1016, 1020 (D.C. 1987).

II.

Appellants concede that no employee of appellee detained them or arrested them. Appellants argue that the trial court erred because there are material facts other than those appellee set forth in its 12-I (k) statement, citing Spellman v. American Security Bank, N.A ., 504 A.2d 1119, 1122 (D.C. 1986) for the proposition that " the court must still review all other material of record in determining whether there are disputed facts" and describing summary judgment as an " extreme remedy."

Although Spellman indicated that the court must review the remainder of the record to determine if there are any disputed facts, id., it was decided before the Supreme Court's decision in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (holding that summary judgment is appropriate " against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the ...


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