Bonkowski v. Arlan’s Dep’t Store

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Bonkowski v. Arlan’s Dep’t Store
Court Court of Appeals of Michigan
Citation 12 Mich.App. 88
162 N.W.2d 347
Date decided 1968


The plaintiff made several purchases at the defendant’s department store and proceeded to leave. A private policeman working for the defendant asked her to stop as she was waking to her car and motioned for her to return to the store. When she had returned he said that someone had told him that she had put three pieces of jewelry into her purse, which she denied. He told her he wanted to see the contents of her purse, to which she consented. After finding that she had not stolen anything, the policeman returned to the store. Plaintiff complains that as a result of defendant’s tortuous acts she has suffered numerous psychosomatic symptoms, including headaches, nervousness, and depression.

Procedural History

Plaintiff issued an action for false arrest and slander. Jury verdict for the plaintiff and an appeal by the defendant. The defendant’s motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, remittitur, and new trial were denied by the court.


Whether privilege exists in favor of a merchant to detain for reasonable investigation a person whom he reasonably believes to have unlawfully taken goods from his store.


Reversed and remanded for new trial, for the jury to determine whether or not the defendant’s agent reasonably believed the plaintiff had unlawfully taken any goods at the defendant’s store, and if so, whether the investigation that followed was reasonable under the circumstances.


Privilege is necessary for the protection of a shopkeeper, even after the person has left the premises because a merchant may not be able to form the reasonable belief justifying a detention for a reasonable investigation before the suspected person has left the premises.