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Home > Cases > The Injured Shoe Shopper

Case Study # 1: The Injured Shoe Shopper

Shoplifting Case Study # 1 – Injured Shoe Shopper: Case Studies, Summit Loss Prevention Consulting, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana (IN)

Summit Loss Prevention Consulting's president, Tony Jarana, has worked on thousands of different types of cases during a quarter century of field work and loss prevention management. This is just one example of the many situations in which you may find yourself:

Case Study # 1

A national retailer had two Loss Prevention Officers (LPO's) working on a February night in a store in northern Indiana several years ago.

  • From the Loss Prevention Office in the rear of the store, while observing the monitors of the store's video surveillance system (CCTV) the LPO's detected a female customer in the shoe department.

  • The experienced Loss Prevention Officers both watched as the woman removed the shoes she was wearing when she entered the store and put a new pair of shoes on in their place. The woman then took her old pair of shoes and placed them in the empty shoe box and returned it to the shelf.

  • The LP Officers maintained constant surveillance of the woman as she made her way around the department store. She selected an inexpensive kitchen appliance and proceeded to the front register area where she paid for the appliance. The LP Officers hurried to the front of the store and waited for the woman to exit the store wearing her unpaid-for shoes.

  • The LP Officers followed the suspect outside and confronted her about the shoes. The woman denied removing anything and attempted to enter her vehicle which was parked in the store parking lot. The LP Officers were not going to allow her to simply leave with the stolen shoes and attempted to physically detain the woman.

  • In the parking lot, at night, with icy patches around her vehicle, while struggling with the two LP Officers, the woman lost her balance, slipped and fell. The woman struck her head on the fender of a vehicle and then again on the frozen asphalt lot.

  • The LP Officers realized immediately that she was knocked unconscious and saw that she was bleeding badly from a head wound. Emergency medical assistance was requested and the woman was hospitalized in a coma. She regained consciousness many days later and was diagnosed with partial permanent brain damage.

For the price of a pair of shoes, this retailer had a huge lawsuit pending against it. The case was eventually settled for more than two million dollars.

Personal Injury by an Employee: Whether You're Right or Wrong, You're Wrong!

The fact that the woman was observed committing the theft, even videotaped evidence wasn't sufficient to defend the retailer and the corporate attorneys were aware of that reality. Although this is an extreme case, the potential always exists for a liability suit for damages when employees, or managers, or even well-trained Loss Prevention Officers confront a customer/suspect.

When you examine the tragic event detailed above, it is obvious what went wrong. Poor judgment was displayed on the part of the Loss Prevention personnel when they decided to physically confront the suspect in rather extreme conditions. This national retailer, with an extremely sophisticated Loss Prevention department, had trained the LP Officers well regarding their technical responsibilities. They followed all company loss prevention guidelines as they:

  • Observed the suspect
  • Videotaped her behavior for use as evidence
  • Then waited while she passed through the checkout island without making proper payment for the shoes on her feet

Then they made a critical error in judgment. As described, the men followed the suspect outside and during a physical confrontation, she became severely injured. At the time, there were at least two other possible options for the Loss Prevention personnel.

  • First, the suspect bought her appliance with a check. This provides an excellent source of identification to refer to when reporting this event to local law enforcement.

  • A second option would have been to record the license plate information from the vehicle the suspect was driving.

Utilizing either option would have resulted in enough pertinent information for a police investigator to use in pursuing a criminal investigation and eliminated the possibility of the suspect becoming injured. It is difficult to train someone to use good judgment, but it is important to demonstrate that effort.

How to Prevent Situations Like This

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