Woman loses €75k defamation claim over 'upset' caused by being asked if she paid for Bag for Life

Woman loses €75k defamation claim over 'upset' caused by being asked if she paid for Bag for Life
Karina Fowler outside court today. Pic: Collins

A €75,000 damages claim for defamation, over whether a Marks and Spencer customer had paid for a €1 shopping bag, was described by a judge today as "over the top".

Judge John O’Connor said in the Circuit Civil Court that a store check-out operator asking someone if they had paid for a bag did not give rise to a defamation action nor did becoming upset at such a question justify a claim.

Karina Fowler, a carer, of Robert Emmet Close, Dublin 8, said she had become embarrassed, shocked and upset when she had been asked at the M&S check-out in the Jervis Street Shopping Centre if she could prove she had paid for the “Bag for Life”.

When cross-examined by Elizabeth Jane Walsh, counsel for M&S, she denied having started screaming and shouting when the till operator had asked if she should scan the bag. She said she had been the only one in the queue to have been asked.

Fowler said she was a regular shopper in M&S in the Jervis Centre and when she had told the attendant she had brought the bag with her she had been told “Prove It. You will have to produce a receipt.”

She said she had started to cry and had become very upset and after having her purchases scanned had asked for the manager. She claimed the manager had told her she should not have been singled out.

The M&S check-out operator Stephanie McDermott said she had asked Ms Fowler “will I take for the bag?” and she had replied “no.” She had then asked her if she had a receipt and, when Ms Fowler replied “no” she had said okay.

“The bag was a brand new bag and that’s why I asked her,” Ms McDermott said. “I would normally ask a customer and scan new bags.”

McDermott said she had been dealing with her next customer when Ms Fowler had asked for the manager and when a supervisor arrived Ms Fowler had told her she had been accused in the wrong.

She said it was store policy to scan every bag but she would not do so when it was obvious the bag was an old one. She denied having told Ms Fowler to prove that the bag was hers.

Ms Walsh, who appeared with Miley and Miley Solicitors for M&S, told the court that within a week of the incident the store had received a solicitor’s letter stating Ms Fowler had been defamed and claiming damages.

Dismissing Fowler’s case, Judge O’Connor said her pleadings had also included a claim that she had been falsely imprisoned and there had been no evidence whatsoever in relation to that, saying: "This was clearly over the top".

“Clearly Ms Fowler is a sensitive woman and I accept she became upset,” Judge O’Connor said. “But the fact she was upset doesn’t give rise to a defamation action and asking someone had they paid for a bag was not defamation.”

Judge O’Connor made no order for costs but warned that in future claims where there was no evidence of defamation he would award costs against the plaintiff.

More on this topic

Facebook photos of man competing in 'Hookamuck Challenge’ sees damages claim thrown out Facebook photos of man competing in 'Hookamuck Challenge’ sees damages claim thrown out

Judge shows mercy and allows man to spend first Christmas with his family in 15 yearsJudge shows mercy and allows man to spend first Christmas with his family in 15 years

British cave diver left feeling ‘dirtied’ by Elon Musk tweets, court hearsBritish cave diver left feeling ‘dirtied’ by Elon Musk tweets, court hears

Sentence upheld in garda corruption appealSentence upheld in garda corruption appeal


More in this Section

Sentence upheld in garda corruption appealSentence upheld in garda corruption appeal

Dara Murphy entitled to over €500k after resignationDara Murphy entitled to over €500k after resignation

Facebook photos sees man lose court caseFacebook photos sees man lose court case

'Mass distrust': Cervical Check losing staff due to stress'Mass distrust': Cervical Check losing staff due to stress


Lifestyle

The bug causes vomiting and diarrhoea and can leave people feeling weak.Tips to help stop the spread of the dreaded norovirus

Susan McGarvey, public health nurse, Arranmore, Co Donegal.Working Life: Public health nurse Susan McGarvey

I have a mild dose of laryngitis, brought on by a throat infection. I’ve tried gargling with salted water but it hasn’t helped much. What would you recommend?Natural Health: How to deal with incredibly frustrating laryngitis

Searching for the perfect perfume to gift this Christmas? Rachel Marie Walsh picks the best.Searching for the perfect perfume to gift this Christmas? We've got you covered

More From The Irish Examiner