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Pegues v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

October 30, 2014


For Timikia Pegues, Plaintiff: Warren E Gorman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Warren E Gorman, Rockville, MD.

For Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Defendant: Andrew T Stephenson, Imoh Emmanuel Akpan, Franklin and Prokopik PC, Baltimore, MD.

Page 540


Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge.

While shopping at one of Defendant Wal-Mart's stores, Plaintiff was detained and handcuffed by an employee after she was suspected of shoplifting--although it appears that she never was prosecuted for any crime. Plaintiff has brought this action alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, and battery arising out of the detention. Defendant has moved to dismiss on the grounds that its employee acted reasonably on probable cause that Plaintiff had shoplifted. Because the " shopkeeper's privilege" to detain a person suspected of theft is an affirmative defense that Defendant must plead and prove--and not a qualified immunity from suit--and inasmuch as Plaintiff adequately has stated a prima facie claim, I deny the motion to dismiss.

Page 541


For the purposes of considering a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts the facts that Plaintiff has alleged in her complaint as true. See Aziz v. Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). On or about January 20, 2014, Plaintiff Timika Pegues entered a store owned by Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (" Wal-Mart" ) located at 8475 Branch Avenue, Clinton, Maryland (the " Store" ). Am. Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 2.[1] According to the Amended Complaint, Pegues's mother had purchased a bassinet the previous day and was meeting Pegues at the Store to return it for a refund. Id. ¶ ¶ 5-7. Pegues's mother gave her the bassinet, a credit card, and a receipt, and left the Store after completing her own shopping. Id. ¶ ¶ 7-8, 9. However, when Pegues attempted to return the bassinet, she found that she had the wrong receipt and could not return it. Id. ¶ 9. She therefore left the Store with the bassinet, placed it in her car, and then returned to the Store to purchase items that she had placed in her shopping cart before she left. Id. ¶ 11-12.

At this time, a security guard employed by the Store stopped Pegues and " arrested, handcuffed and detained" her on suspicion that she had shoplifted the bassinet. Id. ¶ ¶ 13-14. The police were called, and once they arrived, issued a citation to Pegues. Id. ¶ ¶ 14-17. The Amended Complaint is silent regarding whether Pegues ever was prosecuted for the alleged theft, but conclusorily pleads that her arrest was " unlawful[] and without justification." Id. ¶ ¶ 17, 22.

Pegues filed her original complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on January 13, 2014, Notice of Removal ¶ 1, ECF No. 1, and amended shortly thereafter, see Am. Compl. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges three counts against Wal-Mart: (I) " False Arrest," (II) " Illegal Detention," and (III) " Assault and Battery." Am. Compl. On March 10, 2014, Wal-Mart removed to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1332 and 1441, and filed a Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment (" Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss" ), ECF No. 8, with a supporting Memorandum (" Def.'s Dismiss Mem." ), ECF No. 8-1, and attaching a " statement of undisputed facts," Def.'s Dismiss Mem. 3, that purports to prove that Pegues actually shoplifted the bassinet, see Spriggs Aff., Def.'s Dismiss Mem. Ex. 1, ECF No. 8-2. Pegues has filed a bare-bones Opposition and Points and Authorities to Motion to Dismiss (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ), ECF No. 13, and the time for Wal-Mart to reply has passed, Loc. R. 105.2(a). The motion now is ripe and is before me; having reviewed the filings, I find a hearing is not necessary. Loc. R. 105.6.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for " the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012). This rule's purpose " 'is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.'" Id. (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)). To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,

Page 542

550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint must contain " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state " a plausible claim for relief," as " [t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice," Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. See Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (discussing standard from Iqbal and Twombly ). " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content ...

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