Luxottica of America, Inc., et al. v. BruceAnnotate this Case
Luxottica of America, Inc., Jeremiah Andrews, Jr., and Anthony Pfleger appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Jackie Lee Bruce on Bruce's claims alleging that Andrews and Pfleger, Luxottica employees, defamed him and publicly placed him in a false light by accusing him of shoplifting. Andrews was the manager of the "Sunglass Hut" store at a shopping center in Montgomery. Luxottica owned the store. Andrews was working when Bruce entered the store. Another man, who was known by Andrews to have recently shoplifted from the store, entered the store immediately behind Bruce. Andrews suspected Bruce was acting as the shoplifter's accomplice on this particular occasion. Surveillance video showed Bruce walking back and forth five or six times before walking away from the store. Bruce explained his pacing as simple indecision about whether to visit another store or to instead leave the shopping center. Shortly after Bruce walked away, the shoplifter left the store with sunglasses without paying for them, which Andrews witnessed. Bruce testified that a friend named Orlando had driven Bruce to and from the shopping center and he denied knowing the shoplifter or seeing him steal sunglasses. Andrews reported the incident to Montgomery police and to defendant Pfleger, who was a former police officer and the asset-protection manager for Luxottica responsible for investigating shoplifting. After attempting without success to obtain the assistance of police, Pfleger contacted Central Alabama Crimestoppers, giving the organization photographs of the shoplifter, Bruce, and the shoplifter's other alleged accomplices so that Crimestoppers could make the information public in an attempt to identify the suspects. In addition to photographs, Pfleger provided Crimestoppers with a written synopsis of multiple incidents at the store. After review of the trial court record, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Andrews could not be held liable because, under the McDaniel/Burney rule, he did not publicize any statements about Bruce. And, because Pfleger enjoyed a qualified-privilege defense, he too could not be held liable. The Court surmised the only basis for Luxottica's possible liability was vicarious liability for Andrews's and Pfleger's actions. Because those parties were not liable, neither was Luxottica. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter.