Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for
the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket No.
C634059 Honorable Donald R. Johnson, Judge Presiding
Jonathan E. Mitchell Michael C. Palmintier Baton Rouge,
Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Melvin Bindom
Gregory T. Stevens Shelton Dennis Blunt Kelly Kromer
Boudreaux Jack B. Stanley Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for
Defendants/ Appellees Higbee Lancoms, LP and Derrick
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.3., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.
suit for defamation, the plaintiff appeals the trial court
judgment that granted the defendants' motion for summary
judgment and dismissed the plaintiff's claims with
prejudice. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
August 10, 2013, Deputy David Moran, Jr., a reserve deputy
with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, was
working a detail at the Dillard's department stores at
the Mall of Louisiana. While in the women's store in the
mall, Deputy Moran was notified by Dillard's loss
prevention department that there was a person being monitored
for shoplifting at the other Dillard's store. He began
walking toward the other store and was notified that a theft
was in progress and that the suspect was going out the door
with a set of pots and pans without paying for them. Deputy
Moran was given a description of the suspect and the clothes
he was wearing. He went to the parking lot, got in his marked
patrol vehicle, and proceeded towards the door he was told
the suspect exited. As he turned down the parking aisle
towards the exit, Deputy Moran saw a white vehicle
approaching him driven by a man matching the description
given to him. Deputy Moran turned on his lights and siren,
but rather than stop, the driver went around the deputy's
vehicle. The driver had his window rolled down, and as he
passed, he looked at Deputy Moran, who told the driver to
stop. The driver failed to comply. Deputy Moran pursued the
driver with his lights and siren on and observed him as he
failed to stop at a stop sign exiting the parking lot, ran a
red light before getting on Interstate 10 westbound, caused
several vehicles to swerve to avoid hitting him, changed
lanes without signaling, and swerved in and out of traffic.
Deputy Moran was able to pull alongside the vehicle on the
interstate, obtain a good look at the driver, and motion him
to pull over. The driver ignored Deputy Moran's request.
When Deputy Moran reached the area of the Acadian Thruway
exit, he was advised by his supervisor to terminate the
point, Deputy Moran was told by someone in the loss
prevention department that the suspect in the theft from
Dillard's might be Melvin Bindom, who had a history of
theft at Dillard's and had been banned from the store.
After his return to Dillard's, Deputy Moran ran Mr.
Bindom's name in a database for Louisiana driver's
license and identification information used by law
enforcement personnel. The database contained a photograph of
Mr. Bindom, as well as his criminal record. Deputy Moran
believed the person in the photograph was the same person he
had pursued on the interstate.
Deputy Moran viewed Dillard's surveillance footage
showing the person who shoplifted the pots and pans from the
store and exited into the parking lot. Deputy Moran observed
that the suspect in the video was wearing the same clothing
as the person he encountered in the parking lot and pursued
on the interstate. The suspect also exited the store in the
same area where Deputy Moran first saw him.
Moran filled out an arrest report following the incident, in
which he listed several offenses, including theft of goods.
He then filled out an affidavit for an arrest warrant, which
was issued. Mr. Bindom was subsequently arrested and placed
into custody on October 4, 2013. Deputy Moran also went to
the prison on October 14, 2013, to interview Mr. Bindom and
confirmed that Mr. Bindom was the same person in the vehicle
he pursued from Dillard's.
Bindom's criminal proceeding, Deputy Moran was advised by
the assistant district attorney that the State was not going
to prosecute the case. The assistant district attorney noted
on the bill of information that after "review of [the]
video from Dillard's ... and after consultation with
deputy and LPO - cannot prove [defendant's] identity as
the thief beyond a reasonable doubt." (R. p. 297). Mr.
Bindom was released from jail on February 12, 2014.
on October 3, 2014, Mr. Bindom filed a Petition for Damages
against several defendants, including Higbee Lancoms, LP, as
the owner and operator of Dillard's (Higbee), and Derrick
Zmarquest McNeil, an employee of Dillard's in the loss
prevention department. In his petition for damages, Mr.
Bindom alleged that Higbee and Mr. McNeil were negligent in
that they failed to exercise due care in ascertaining the
identity of the subject of a criminal complaint; failed to
properly review security footage prior to making a criminal
complaint; failed to communicate all necessary and proper
information to law enforcement officials during a criminal
investigation; and failed, generally, to maintain the
standard of care required. Mr. Bindom also asserted that
Higbee was vicariously liable for the negligent acts of its
employee, Mr. McNeil, performed in the course and scope of
his employment. Mr. Bindom claimed that, as a result of the
defendants' actions, he suffered damages for
"extreme emotional distress, public embarrassment and
humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and deprivation of
and Mr. McNeil answered the petition, asserting several
affirmative defenses, including qualified immunity for those
who report suspected criminal activity. Thereafter, they
filed a motion for summary judgment. Following the hearing on
the motion, the trial court took the matter under advisement.
On July 19, 2017, the trial court signed a judgment granting
the motion for summary judgment on behalf of Higbee and Mr.
McNeil and dismissing all of Mr. Bindom's claims against