Caldor, Inc. v. Bowden

Citation625 A.2d 959,330 Md. 632
Decision Date01 September 1992
Docket NumberNo. 37,37
PartiesCALDOR, INC. et al. v. Samuel David BOWDEN, An Infant. ,
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

Patricia M. Thornton (McCarthy, Bacon & Costello, both on brief), Landover, for appellant.

Allan J. Rabineau, Baltimore, for appellee.



In the instant case Samuel Bowden brought suit against his employer Caldor, Inc. (Caldor) and three Caldor employees alleging false imprisonment, wrongful discharge, malicious prosecution, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Bowden succeeded on the merits of his case and the jury awarded compensatory damages separately for each of the five counts. In addition, the jury found that punitive damages were warranted. After a separate hearing, the jury granted a punitive damages award apparently based on all five tort counts, but it did not allocate the portion of the punitive damages award attributable to each count. At a post-trial hearing, the circuit court granted a motion for judgment not withstanding the verdict (J.N.W.V.) setting aside the judgment on two of the counts but leaving the entire punitive damages award intact. We granted certiorari to consider the circuit court's rulings on the motion for J.N.W.V., as well as whether a new trial on the issue of punitive damages is required when a trial court grants a J.N.W.V. for some of the compensatory counts that form the basis for a general punitive damages award in a multiple count suit. We hold that in this case a new trial to recalculate punitive damages is necessary.


In reviewing the circuit court's decision to both grant in part and deny in part the defendant's motion for J.N.W.V., we must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all conflicts in the plaintiff's favor." Kentucky Fried Chicken Nat'l Management Co. v. Weathersby, 326 Md. 663, 666, 607 A.2d 8, 9 (1992); Lehman v. Baltimore Transit Co., 227 Md. 537, 540, 177 A.2d 855, 857 (1962). Therefore, we present the facts of this case from Bowden's point of view.

In March 1988, the respondent Samuel Bowden was sixteen years old when he applied for a position with Caldor, Inc., a national retail store. Caldor hired Bowden as a customer service representative and assigned him to its hardware department. In the early evening of June 15, 1988, Bowden arrived at Caldor to report for his 5:45 p.m. shift. Bowden went to punch in his time card and discovered that his time card was missing. He went to the acting store manager, Ms. Baldwin, to inquire about its absence. Baldwin, without further explanation, simply instructed Bowden to report to his normal post in the hardware department.

At approximately 6:45 p.m., Baldwin paged Bowden and instructed him to meet her at the upstairs customer service desk. Bowden ascended the escalator and met Baldwin at the customer service desk as instructed. Baldwin told Bowden that she needed his assistance and then led Bowden to a 10' X 10' windowless office on the upper level of the store.

Once inside, Bowden found Mr. Hedrick and Mr. Hodum, two of Caldor's loss prevention personnel, standing in the room. Bowden had not met either man before. The small office contained only a desk, two chairs, and a telephone. Hedrick greeted Bowden, instructed Bowden to sit down, and then closed the door, leaving Bowden alone with the two strangers.

Bowden was unaware why he was summoned to the upper-office. He asked Hedrick how long he would be there. According to Bowden, Hedrick replied "I don't think you'll be leaving anytime soon." Hedrick then sat down behind the desk and Hodum stood behind Bowden, blocking Bowden's potential egress from the small room. Hedrick asked Bowden a few casual questions about his personal life. Growing tired of the small talk and feeling the pressure of his surroundings, Bowden "bluntly" asked "what was my purpose for being in this room?" Hedrick replied that there had been some missing money and merchandise which had been traced back to Bowden.

Bowden denied this accusation and attempted to leave, but found Hodum blocking the door. Hedrick then stated "sit down or we'll help you sit down." Fearing reprisal, Bowden sat back down. When Bowden attempted to use the phone to contact his parents, his attempt was met by a similar, more emphatic, warning--Hedrick ordered Bowden "to put the damn phone down or [I'll] help [you] do it." On several occasions, Bowden could hear himself paged over the store's PA system. Bowden explained that his mother might be trying to contact him at the store and would be worried if she could not find him. Hedrick did not permit Bowden to respond and told Bowden that, if his mother called, they would tell her that Bowden was not in the store. This further disturbed Bowden.

Hedrick began interrogating Bowden. According to Bowden, Hedrick "kept drilling" him about the missing money. The series of accusations and denials went back and forth. The men forced Bowden to empty his pockets and reveal the contents of his wallet. Hedrick told Bowden that they had videotapes showing him stealing money from the registers and that he would not be permitted to leave until he cooperated. 1

The interrogation continued until approximately 8:00 p.m., when Hedrick placed a blank "voluntary statement" form in front of Bowden. Hedrick then told Bowden that he wanted a written statement from him admitting that he had taken amounts of money on a number of occasions. He told Bowden that if he signed the form, made restitution, and did not involve his parents that Caldor would not contact the police. Out of fear, Bowden gave in to Hedrick's demand. On the first side of the form, Hedrick dictated the terms of Bowden's "admission," specifying the dates and amounts of money. Bowden finally signed the first side at 9:35 p.m. After Bowden completed the first side of the page, Hedrick left the room for thirty or forty minutes. Upon Hedrick's return, Bowden realized that the store was closed and all of the store lights were off. Hedrick then dictated the terms of the second side of the form, which Bowden signed. Hedrick told Bowden to return the next day and repay the money. Around 11:00 p.m., over four hours after Bowden was first summoned to the upstairs office, Hedrick allowed Bowden to leave the store.

Bowden arrived home at 11:30 p.m., an hour later than usual. Bowden's mother met him at the door and demanded an explanation for his tardiness. Bowden told his mother what had happened and denied stealing any money.

Bowden and his mother returned to Caldor the next afternoon. They went to the upstairs manager's office and asked to talk with Hedrick. Mrs. Bowden was informed that Hedrick had left the store. Instead, Mrs. Bowden spoke with Mr. Mehan, the store's security manager, and Mr. Forrester, another store manager, to inquire about the prior night's activities and to attempt "to get to the bottom of things." An argument ensued and, according to Bowden, Forrester barked "You people--you nigger boys make me sick, but you're going to burn for this, you sucker." Bowden further testified that Mehan's only response to the exchange was "sort of a smirk" indicating his agreement with the remark.

Bowden and his mother left the store and returned to their car. Mehan followed them into the parking lot, approached them, and told Bowden that he could not leave. Mehan then seized Bowden's arm and forced him to return to the store through the rear employee entrance. Mehan led Bowden back to his office on the ground floor.

Mrs. Bowden followed Mehan and her son back to Mehan's office, where she called her husband, Reverend Horace Bowden. Rev. Bowden and Mehan discussed the events on the telephone, and Mehan demanded restitution. When Rev. Bowden asked to see the videotapes before making restitution, Mehan refused and stated that he had no other choice but to arrest Bowden and then hung up. Mehan handcuffed Bowden and called the Baltimore County Police. Mehan then escorted the handcuffed Bowden across the lower level of the store, up the escalators, and led him from the back of the upper level to the front door. Bowden remained in handcuffs in public view until the police arrived.

On December 16, 1988, a juvenile proceeding was held before Master Richard J. Gilbert. Bowden had filed a motion to suppress his written statement, but after hearing the testimony of Hedrick, Hodum, and Bowden on the circumstances surrounding Bowden's written statement, Master Gilbert denied Bowden's motion to suppress. Following the denial of Bowden's motion, a juvenile adjudicatory hearing was held. The State called Hedrick and Mehan and introduced Bowden's written statement. At the close of the State's case, Bowden moved to dismiss the charges. Master Gilbert denied the motion. When defense counsel indicated he was prepared to call witnesses, Master Gilbert responded "that's up to you." Apparently taking this as a favorable sign, defense counsel indicated that, although he was prepared to call Bowden and his mother, he now decided to submit and waive argument. The State also waived argument and submitted, whereupon, Master Gilbert found that there was insufficient evidence to convince him beyond a reasonable doubt that Bowden committed a theft.

Bowden then filed a civil suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, naming Caldor, Hedrick, Hodum, and Mehan as defendants. The complaint alleged counts of false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation, wrongful discharge, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case was tried before a jury, and on August 20, 1991, the jury rendered a decision in favor of Bowden. The jury awarded a total of $110,000 in compensatory damages. The verdict sheet asked the jury to itemize the damages attributable to each tort count. They awarded $10,000 for...

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