Thomas v. Colonial Stores, Inc.

Decision Date15 March 1960
Docket NumberNo. 17626,17626
Citation236 S.C. 95,113 S.E.2d 337
PartiesMrs. Louise THOMAS, Appellant, v. COLONIAL STORES, INC., Respondent.
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

Johnson & Smith, Spartanburg, for appellant.

Butler & Chapman, Spartanburg, for respondent.

OXNER, Justice.

This action, denominated by plaintiff as one for false imprisonment, comes before us on the pleadings. Defendant made a motion to strike a portion of plaintiff's complaint and plaintiff made a motion to strike the second defense of defendant's answer. The Court below granted defendant's motion and refused that of plaintiff. From this order plaintiff has appealed.

Briefly stated, plaintiff alleged in her complaint that upon leaving one of defendant's self-service grocery stores in the City of Spartanburg, where she had gone as a patron, she was stopped on the sidewalk by the manager and required to accompany him to the rear of the store where she was detained for fifteen or twenty minutes, at which time a police officer who had been summoned by the manager arrived; that at his direction, the police officer took her to the city jail where she was confined for approximately seven hours; that she was required to furnish bond in order to be liberated from jail and had to employ an attorney; and that no warrant was ever 'issued in connection with the arrest and plaintiff was falsely imprisoned, deprived of her liberty, humiliated, mortified and embarrassed.'

In its first defense, defendant admitted that upon leaving the store plaintiff was stopped on the street by its manager and detained by him until she was turned over to a police officer who took her to the city jail where she was kept for several hours; that she furnished bond and later employed an attorney and that no warrant was issued or signed. The remaining allegations of the complaint were denied. The second defense was as follows:

'1. Defendant alleges that on or about November 23rd, 1957, the plaintiff as a member of the public was in defendant's self-service store on North Converse Street in the City of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and that on that date, and at said time approximately 3:30 to 4 o'clock, P. M., W. S. Myers observed the plaintiff to pick up a jar of coffee from defendant's stock and place it in her clothing; that plaintiff did not pay for said jar of coffee and kept it concealed on her person, leaving the store with said jar of coffee; that the said W. S. Myers followed the plaintiff to the street and called her attention to the fact that she had not paid for the jar of coffee, but plaintiff first denied having the jar of coffee, but later pulled out the jar of coffee and admitted that she had taken it, and the plaintiff was detained by the said W. S. Myers, as, it is alleged on information and belief, he had the right and duty so to do, until a duly authorized member of the Spartanburg City Police Force arrived at Defendant's store, and said Officer took the Plaintiff in charge and, as Defendant is informed and believes, took her to the City Jail of the City of Spartanburg, and where she was booked for petit larceny.

'2. That Defendant alleges, as it is informed and believes, that it sustains no liability to the plaintiff under the circumstances.'

We shall first determine whether the Court below erred in refusing to strike defendant's second defense. While ordinarily an order refusing a motion to strike allegations in a pleading is not subject to interlocutory appeal, it is not an invariable rule. It seems to be conceded that the motion here is in the nature of a demurrer, involving the merits and going to the heart of the defense, and should be determined before trial. Under these circumstances, we shall consider the appeal. Rice Hope Plantation v. South Carolina Public Service Authority, 216 S.C. 500, 59 S.E.2d 132; DePass v. Piedmont Interstate Fair Association, 217 S.C. 38, 59 S.E.2d 495.

We have encountered some difficulty in determining exactly the basis upon which the claim of false imprisonment is made. There is no allegation that plaintiff was unlawfully arrested or that false charges were preferred against her. Nor do the pleadings disclose the disposition of these charges. It is stated in plaintiff's brief that a trial was had and the prosecution dismissed but this statement is not a part of the record on appeal and cannot be considered. Apparently the complaint is based upon the theory that regardless of the lawfulness of plaintiff's arrest in the first instance, the failure to procure a warrant or otherwise take any steps to prosecute her made her detention unlawful. But it is not necessary that we now construe the complaint or determine whether it states a cause of action. The case is not here on demurrer. Whatever may be the theory of the complaint, we think the facts stated in the second defense are relevant on the question as to whether plaintiff was lawfully arrested and detained.

In false imprisonment, the essence of the tort consists in depriving the plaintiff of his liberty without lawful justification. If the restraint or imprisonment complained of is under...

To continue reading

Request your trial
13 cases
  • Van Schaick v. United States, Civ. A. No. 82-2263-15.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • November 22, 1983
    ...reasonable time. See, Westbrook v. Hutchinson, 195 S.C. 101, 111-12, 10 S.E.2d 145, 149 (1940); See also, Thomas v. Colonial Stores, Inc., 236 S.C. 95, 100, 113 S.E.2d 337, 340 (1960). The South Carolina Supreme Court in Westbrook found a private citizen liable for failure to take an arrest......
  • Zimbelman v. Savage
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • October 15, 2010
    ...personal interest in the freedom of each citizen employs as a matter of right from restraint of movement. Thomas v. Colonial Stores, Inc., 236 S.C. 95, 113 S.E.2d 337, 339 (1960); Thompson v. Smith, 289 S.C. 334, 345 S.E.2d 500, 502 (1986). To establish a cause of action for false imprisonm......
  • Law v. South Carolina Dept. of Corrections
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 10, 2006
    ...of his liberty without lawful justification. Jones v. City of Columbia, 301 S.C. 62, 389 S.E.2d 662 (1990); Thomas v. Colonial Stores, Inc., 236 S.C. 95, 113 S.E.2d 337 (1960). To prevail on a claim for false imprisonment, the plaintiff must establish: (1) the defendant restrained the plain......
  • Prosser v. Parsons
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 2, 1965
    ...without lawful justification, and if the restraint or imprisonment complained of is lawful, the action fails. Thomas v. Colonial Stores, Inc., 236 S.C. 95, 113 S.E.2d 337. The legality of an arrest without warrant does not depend on the final results of the charge on which the arrest was ma......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT