Sunday 19 January 2020

Shopper's €75,000 claim over €1 'bag for life' thrown out

Karina Fowler lost her case
Karina Fowler lost her case

A €75,000 damages claim for defamation over a €1 shopping bag has been thrown out by a judge who described it as "completely over the top".

Judge John O'Connor said in the Circuit Civil Court that a 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.

Carer Karina Fowler, of Robert Emmet Close in Dublin's Liberties, said she was embarrassed, shocked and upset when she was asked at the Marks and Spencer (M&S) check-out in the Jervis Centre if she could prove she had paid for the "bag for life".

When cross-examined by Elizabeth Jane Walsh, for M&S, she denied having started screaming and shouting when the till operator asked if she should scan the bag.

She said she was the only one in the queue to be asked.

Ms Fowler said that when she told the attendant she had brought the bag with her, she was told: "Prove it. You will have to produce a receipt."

She said she started to cry and, after her purchases were scanned, asked for the manager. She claimed the manager told her she should not have been singled out.

Check-out operator Stephanie McDermott said she asked Ms Fowler if she should take for the bag, and she had replied: "No."

She then asked if she had a receipt. When Ms Fowler replied "no", she said: "OK."

Ms McDermott said it was store policy to scan every bag, but she would not do so when it was obvious it was old.

She denied telling Ms Fowler to prove the bag was hers.


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

"Clearly, Ms Fowler is a sensitive woman, and I accept she became upset," the judge 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."

He 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.

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