Can I sue for falsely being accused of stealing and public humiliation?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I sue for falsely being accused of stealing and public humiliation?

I was in a grocery store yesterday. I had grabbed some hamburger meat, as I continued to

shop for the rest of my groceries. I then decided not to get the meat, so I put it back in the same spot I got it from. I proceeded to the check out line and paid for my items but as soon as the cashier had given me my money back, the manager approched me and began accusing me of stealing and demanding that I open my bag in front of the entire store. The other customers were looking at me, as were the employees. New Link Destination
day I went back up there to talk to the store manager and she assured me that the manager who accused me was in the wrong; they are not to do something like this it in front of everyone. I wrote corporate but haven’t heard nothing back. Is this something I can sue for?

Asked on July 1, 2016 under Personal Injury, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You may be able to sue, but it's worth bothering. There is no lawsuit for "public humiliation"--that's simply not something you can sue for. You can sue for defamation, which is in some ways similar: that is for someone publically making a false statement of fact which damages your reputation. However, the law relates the amount of compensation you can get to the damage, loss, costs, etc. you incur from the wrongful act. If you can show that due to this, you were kicked out of some clubs or organizations that were important to you, or you lost you a job or were denied being hired for a new job, etc., you may have a viable claim. But without some loss, the amount of money you'd get for once being accused of theft in public in front of strangers is almost certainly significantly less than you'd spend on the lawsuit if you hired an attorney--and if you sued on your own, while you might technically come out ahead, would it be worth what could be two days or more of your time in total?

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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