Recent Question/Assignment

Mr. Mohammad Kahn is a prominent local CPA. His mother was from India, his father from Iran. He practices Islam and wears a traditional head cover. He graduated from NIACC, Central College and the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a busy CPA practice and his clients include, among others: John Deere, the Honeywell Corporation, Farm Bureau Insurance, North Iowa Area Community College, Simpson College, and the Microsoft Corporation. He is married and has two young children, ages 5 and 8.

He stopped at the hardware store on his way home from work to buy a boxcutter. His CPA firm had just received a shipment of treatises on the Internal Revenue Code. He was planning to open the boxes in which the treatises were delivered and reorganize the firm library that night. After he paid for the boxcutter and left the store, he put it in the left front pocket of his shirt so he would have it when he got back to work.

He then remembered that he was supposed to stop and pick up toothpaste, talcum powder, and envelopes on the way home. He was late and in a hurry. He stopped at the drugstore to buy those items, paying for them at the counter. That drugstore also sold boxcutters.

When Kahn reached inside the inside pocket of his coat to get his checkbook, one of the store clerks saw the boxcutter sticking out of the inside pocket. The clerk then ran to tell the two other clerks on duty that a suspicious Middle Easterner just had stolen a boxcutter and was headed out of the store.

Just as Kahn was leaving the store, the two clerks stopped him and told him to empty his pockets. As he did so, the container of talcum powder fell to the sidewalk and burst, covering the sidewalk with a fine, white powder. Just then, the third clerk arrived. Kahn handed the boxcutter to the third clerk. The third clerk yelled at Kahn, “Terrorists like you should be instantly put to death! I hope you breathe every bit of that powder and die of Anthrax immediately!”

The two other clerks ran back into the store and put on surgical masks. The manager of the store arrived and directed the three clerks to lock Kahn in a small, dark back room.

He was locked in the room for an hour until the local police arrived. The police learned that the folks at the store suspected Kahn of stealing the boxcutter. The bright young officer asked Kahn if he had a receipt for the boxcutter. Kahn produced the receipt from the hardware store and explained that he had just stopped at the hardware store before coming into the drugstore. The bright young officer also observed that the powder, which covered the lower part of Kahn’s trousers, was indeed talcum powder.

Kahn was then released. He started having nightmares, backaches, and became extremely anxious and nervous.
This event occurred in the state of Iowa. Iowa has the following statute which governs detention and search relative to shoplifting. This is section 808.12 of the Code:

1. Persons concealing property as set forth in section 714.5, may be detained and searched by a peace officer, person employed in a facility containing library materials, merchant, or merchant’s employee, provided that the detention is for a reasonable length of time and that the search is conducted in a reasonable manner by a person of the same sex and according to subsection 2 of this section.

2. No search of the person under this section shall be conducted by any person other than someone acting under the direction of a peace officer except where permission of the one to be searched has first been obtained.

3. The detention or search under this section by a peace officer, person employed in a facility containing library materials, merchant, or merchant’s employee does not render the person liable, in a criminal or civil action, for false arrest or false imprisonment provided the person conducting the search or detention had reasonable grounds to believe the person detained or searched had concealed or was attempting to conceal property as set forth in section 714.5.

QUESTION: Applying what you read in the text about the tort of false imprisonment and in the case of Zohn v. Menards, discuss fully whether the tort of false imprisonment has been committed against Mohammad Kahn. In your discussion you should discuss the interest protected by the tort of false imprisonment, the elements of the tort of false imprisonment and whether the “storekeeper’s defense” set forth in section 808.12 of the Code serves to insulate the storekeeper from liability for false imprisonment.

In your discussion, please keep in mind that many legal problems are fact-intensive. That is to say, not only must you identify the applicable law, but you must and should apply the law to the facts set forth in the problem. In other words, do not discuss the tort of false imprisonment in a vacuum. Relate it to the facts I have given you.

This is worth a maximum of 18 points as follows:

Identify the interest protected: 1 point

Identify and discuss the elements: 5 points

Application of elements of tort to facts: 5 points

Analysis of whether Section 808.12 of the Code insulates the store from liability: 5 points

Summary of conclusion: 2 points

Question 2:

Part 1. The sidewalk in front of the main office of Simpson College accumulates an unusual amount of snow and ice every winter. To keep the walk free of ice, the custodian would need to check it every day (costing roughly $1 of his time per day) and apply salt every other day at a cost of about 50 cents per day. Assume that winter is 120 days long at Simpson. Statistics show that falls on ice usually result in average medical expenses of $10,000, along with pain and suffering, and loss of wages, where appropriate. Experience shows that, on the average, one person per years falls on that ice. Using an economic analysis of negligence, should Simpson ask the custodian to check the walk every day and apply salt? Why or Why not?

Worth a maximum of 3 points.

Part 2: Joe Dokes falls on the ice, breaking his arm and shoulder. Ice had accumulated and had been untreated for about 4 days. He has $2000 in medical expenses and has lost 15 days of work, He thinks about suing Simpson for his injuries? What do you tell him? Using a traditional analysis (non-economic) do you think Simpson was negligence? Why or why not?

Worth a maximum of 3 points.

Question 3:

You are employed as the risk manager for a big retail sales chain in Iowa. (like Dillards or Von Maur). Your company is experiencing substantial losses from theft, particularly in the winter when folks shop wear heavy coats which may conceal small items.

The CEO comes to you asking for advice on the formulation of a policy to reduce theft loss, while minimizing the company’s exposure to lawsuits for false imprisonment. The CEO has come to you because she knows you took business law at Simpson where you studied torts and false imprisonment. Using the knowledge you gained in this module, and applying Zohn v. Menards, and Iowa Code section 808.12, draft a brief (3 to 4 paragraph) response to the CEO outlining what you believe is a reasonable protocol for the salespeople to follow when they suspect a shopper of shoplifting.

Worth a maximum of 5 points.

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