Delchamps, Inc. v. Bryant

In Delchamps, Inc. v. Bryant, 738 So. 2d 824 (Ala. 1999) the plaintiff testified that dealing with being arrested and prosecuted had been "hard" and that as a result of his arrest and prosecution he was "put through humiliation." Delchamps, Inc. v. Bryant, 738 So. 2d 824, 837 (Ala. 1999). Consequently, the jury's award of mental-anguish damages was reduced from $ 400,000 to $ 100,000. Delchamps, supra, at 838. Bryant was arrested for shoplifting two cartons of cigarettes from a Delchamps grocery store. An employee at the Delchamps store suspected the theft and told the assistant store manager. The manager questioned the suspect in the front of the store, but allowed him to leave. The manager wrote down the license-plate number of the automobile the suspect entered and then telephoned the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. The investigation by the sheriff's department led to the arrest of Bryant. The criminal case against him, however, was nol-prossed because he presented evidence indicating that at the time of the alleged theft he was incarcerated. Bryant sued Delchamps, Inc., alleging malicious prosecution and claiming compensatory damages for mental anguish. At trial, Bryant testified, describing his arrest and incarceration; his hiring an attorney; the lapse of time between the arrest and the nol-prossing of his case; and his concern that a conviction could lead to his return to prison for a minimum of 10 years. The Court held that the scant direct testimony about mental anguish and the absence of any corroborating description of the intensity of his suffering could not have led a reasonable jury to award $ 400,000 in compensatory damages. The Court concluded that the greatest amount of compensatory damages a jury could have awarded based on the evidence was $ 100,000.