Myer Stores Ltd v Soo [1991]: A Case Summary

Myer Stores Ltd v Soo

Myer Stores Ltd v Soo [1991] is an Australian tort law case concerning the detainment of a customer at a departmental store. The question arose as to whether his detainment was lawful and whether damages should be awarded to him.

Given below are the case details:

Case name & citation: Myer Stores Ltd v Soo [1991] 2 VR 597

  • The concerned Court: Supreme Court of Victoria Appeal Division
  • Decided on: 13 November 1990
  • The bench of judges: Murphy, O’Bryan, and McDonald JJ
  • Area of law: Trespass to person; False imprisonment; Total restraint

Facts of the case (Myer Stores Ltd v Soo)

Mr. Soo was shopping at Myer’s hi-fi department store. A security officer at the store believed Soo was a shoplifting suspect based on some store footage.

He informed the police and directed them to escort Mr. Soo. The security officer and a few policemen asked Soo to accompany them to an office to resolve the matter, even though he denied the accusation and was reluctant to do so. Soo was kept in the office for an hour. Soo cooperated fully during the interview and provided personal details and even receipts of purchases to prove his innocence.

Later police searched Soo’s home based on a warrant issued to them. No evidence was found and Mr. Soo also agreed to attend the police station for a further interview. Nothing was found and Soo was ultimately declared innocent of the allegations.

Soo brought legal proceedings against Myer and the police officers for wrongful detention and imprisonment.

He was very unhappy with how he was treated by the department store staff and the police officers. He alleged that Myer had “wrongly directed and procured members of the police force to detain” him.

Issue raised

The key question was whether the above circumstances constituted false imprisonment of Soo.

Judgment of the Court

In the initial hearing, the trial judge was sympathetic to the police but found against the department store, Myer.

Myer then appealed to the Victorian Supreme Court (Appeal Division).

The Court decided that Soo had been falsely imprisoned.

Soo’s escort to the security office and his detention for questioning there amounted to a complete restraint without legal authority.

This action was deemed a serious wrong, and as a result, Soo was awarded $10,000 in damages. He was awarded aggravated damages as his treatment was seen as a “significant insult to an innocent man.”

Justice Murphy watched the store footage multiple times. He reached the view that it was not reasonably open for anyone to identify Mr. Soo as a shoplifter. Justice Murphy also expressed concern that the police managed to obtain a search warrant with so little evidence.

References:


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