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Boardman v. Brown's Super Stores

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 2, 2015

MARY BOARDMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BROWN'S SUPER STORES, et al., Defendants

For MARY BOARDMAN, Plaintiff: GABRIEL Z. LEVIN, LEAD ATTORNEY, GABRIEL Z. LEVIN, LEVIN & ZEIGER, PHILADELPHIA, PA; CAROLYN A. CASTAGNA, LEVIN & ZEIGER LLP, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Defendant, Cross Claimant: DIMITRIOS MAVROUDIS, LEAD ATTORNEY, AARON SHOTLAND, BROCK ATKINS, CITY OF PHILADELPHIA LAW DEPT, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For BROWN'S SUPER STORES INC. Cross Claimant: THOMAS J. BRADLEY, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCBREEN & KOPKO, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Cross Defendant, Cross Claimant: AARON SHOTLAND, DIMITRIOS MAVROUDIS, LEAD ATTORNEY, CITY OF PHILADELPHIA LAW DEPT, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For BROWN'S SUPER STORES INC. Cross Defendant, Cross Claimant: THOMAS J. BRADLEY, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCBREEN & KOPKO, PHILADELPHIA, PA, ATTORNEY TO BE NOTICED.

For BROWN'S SUPER STORES INC. Cross Defendant: THOMAS J. BRADLEY, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCBREEN & KOPKO, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TIMOTHY R. RICE, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

Plaintiff Mary Boardman has filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (doc. 26), arguing that the jury lacked sufficient evidence to find that defendant Brown's Super Stores did not falsely imprison her in violation of Pennsylvania law. I agree.

I may grant Boardman's motion only if viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Brown's, and giving it " every fair and reasonable inference, there is insufficient evidence from which a jury reasonably could find" no liability. McDaniels v. Flick, 59 F.3d 446, 453 (3d Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). I may not weigh the evidence, determine the credibility of witnesses, or substitute Boardman's version of the facts for the jury's version. Id.

Having reserved ruling on Boardman's motion for a directed verdict at trial, N.T. 10/30/2014 at 78-81, I now grant Boardman's motion for judgment as a matter of law because the " record is critically deficient of that minimum quantity of evidence from which a jury might reasonably afford relief" to Brown's. Alvin v. Calabrese, 455 F.App'x 171, 174 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Trabal v. Wells Fargo Armored Serv. Corp., 269 F.3d 243, 249 (3d Cir. 2001)).

I. Background

This dispute stems from Boardman's behavior in a Shop-Rite grocery store owned by Brown's. The evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Brown's, shows that Boardman removed a box of parchment paper, valued at about $3.50, from a store shelf. See N.T. 10/28/2014 at 112, 153. She then opened it, took out and felt the paper inside, and returned the box to the shelf without paying for it. See id. Meanwhile, Brown's security staff was monitoring Boardman by video surveillance. See Exhibit P-27 (Video); N.T. 10/28/2014 at 110-13, 150-52.

While attempting to leave the store after buying other groceries, Boardman was stopped by two members of the store's security, William Haenchen and Herman Jackson, and asked to come to the loss prevention office. N.T. 10/28/2014 at 116-17, 157. Boardman agreed and followed Haenchen, Jackson, and another female employee into the office. Id. at 120, 157; see also N.T. 10/29/2014 at 137. Although the office door was closed, there was no evidence that it was locked, and Jackson and Haenchen left and returned through the door during the meeting. N.T. 10/28/2014 at 120, 251. Haenchen testified that Boardman was not free to leave the office during the investigation, [1] though he could not recall if he told Boardman that. Id. Haenchen's supervisor, Eric Derr, also testified that retail theft suspects are not free to leave the loss prevention office during an investigation. Id. at 18-22. Derr, however, was not present during Boardman's investigation. Id. at 90-94.

Once in the office, Haenchen explained that Boardman had committed retail theft by opening the parchment paper box.[2] Id. at 121. Boardman offered to pay for the box, but her offer was refused. Id. at 122-23, 126. Haenchen and Jackson instead repeatedly asked and tried to " persuade" Boardman to provide her identification and sign an incident form.[3] Id. at 122-26, 249. Boardman objected to providing her identification and signing the form, and testified she asked to leave and was told she could not. Id.; N.T. 10/29/2014 at 147. Jackson, however, testified that Boardman ...


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