TORONTO – A judge has ruled that a University of Toronto professor was falsely imprisoned at a Canadian Tire, but rejected claims that staff had threatened him and caused him to injure himself after leaving the store.
Steve Mann, a pioneer in wearable computer technology, filed a suit against the Canadian Tire Corporation and a single Canadian Tire location over a series of events that took place at the store in downtown Toronto on July 16, 2014.
Mann claimed that, when security sensors went off as he exited the store, staff stopped him from leaving, threatened to harm or kill him and demanded that he delete a video he was taking on his phone, show them his ID and give them his phone number.
In a decision issued Aug. 3, Judge Suhail Akhtar said security camera footage and video of the events taken by Mann himself showed that he was never threatened by staff.
Calling Mann’s account “vastly exaggerated,” Akhtar said he found the Canadian Tire staff to have acted with courtesy and professionalism throughout their interaction with Mann.
“If anything,” said Akhtar, “The greatest sense of intimidation and threat, as demonstrated by the store security video, emanated from the plaintiff and his conspicuous use of the camera phone, causing obvious concern to the staff.”
The judge found, however, that an exchange captured by Mann’s phone in which an employee tells him he can’t leave until a store manager deletes his video, constitutes false imprisonment.
Akhtar said it fell under “shopkeeper’s privilege” to stop a customer who has set off a security alarm, but that if store staff detain the customer even after it’s found nothing was stolen, they are liable for false imprisonment.
The judge added, though, that the 13-minute detention was “not particularly onerous,” and that it was unclear whether Mann even felt compelled to stay.
Mann was later able to recover his deleted footage.
Akhtar invited Mann and the Canadian Tire to make submissions within 30 days to help determine what damages should be awarded.
Mann, who told the court he has an inability to read social situations, claimed that an employee who approached him after the security alarm went off blocked his path and told him, “Leave you die. Plain clothes guards at exit” — accusations that Akhtar called “a fabrication” in his decision.
Mann also claimed a security guard had told him he had to delete his video if he wanted to leave the store alive, and that he was forced to show staff his ID, give them his phone number and wait while they verified the number was his.
Even after he complied with staff demands he was not allowed to leave, Mann claimed. An employee tried to block his path but cleared the way as he approached, Mann claimed.
Akhtar ruled that store security video showed Mann was able to leave the store unimpeded while staff phoned the police to ask whether filming in the store was illegal.
After leaving the store, Mann claimed that he heard a loud noise and turned to see people running from the direction of the Canadian Tire.
Thinking he was being chased, Mann said, he began to run and, while looking over his shoulder, collided with metal pipes on the side of a building, knocking himself unconscious.
Mann claimed that he still suffers from impaired concentration, headaches, insomnia, shoulder pain, back pain, indigestion and stomach pain because of the accident.
In addition to rejecting Mann’s claims that he was threatened, the judge said it was “not foreseeable that a person of reasonable fortitude” would flee believing Canadian Tire staff were coming to harm them, and ruled that any injuries Mann suffered while running away could not be blamed on the company.