The level of compensation awarded in Circuit Court defamation actions arising from incorrect allegations of shoplifting has risen in recent months. At the beginning of 2013, a court approved a settlement in favour of a minor in the sum of €10,000 after a shop keeper falsely accused that minor of shoplifting. In a similar case, two minor schoolgirls were later awarded €10,500 each again on foot of defamatory allegations of shoplifting.
A Dublin Circuit Court later in the year approved a settlement of €15,000 in favour of another minor who was also accused of shoplifting. It appears from the court reports however that the injured party was compensated for mental distress arising from the alleged defamation, and she had lodged personal injuries claim in this regard.
One of the larger damages awards in 2013 for defamation for a wrongful accusation of shop lifting was made in favour of an employee of a defendant retail outlet. The employee was awarded €17,000 by Judge Deery in Dublin‘s Circuit Court. The court heard how the employee had been publicly accused of stealing an outfit from the shop, which turned out to be false.
It is important that retail outlets have both appropriate training for their staff and proper procedures in place to deal with suspected shoplifters to ensure that they can take appropriate action when aware of suspicious activity, and reduce their exposure to claims in defamation. In order to prevent such claims arising, minors in particular need to be treated with great care, especially where they are not accompanied by an adult.