When not working, Orange County taxi driver Dale E. Phillips liked nothing more than window shopping at South Coast Plaza while munching food and sipping drinks. Besides, according to Phillips, stores at the mall “spent considerable time and resources to understand and deploy retail psychology, resulting in potential customers giving attention to their products and service offerings.” That psychology worked so well on the Newport Beach resident that loss of those experiences are causing him not just depression, “sleep deprivation,” and anger but also “fear and puzzlement,” he claims in a lawsuit.
Phillips is suing for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” because in April 2017 South Coast Plaza security officers issued him a five-year ban from entering the popular, privately-owned mall. He faces arrest for trespassing if he returns. According to his lawsuit, which recently landed inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, employees at Rolex Watch USA, Inc. accused him of repeatedly staring into their upscale shop but never buying anything.
Phillips says uniformed security officers approached him while he was “partaking in the South Coast experience” and informed him that, “We’ve had complaints” about his conduct. When he asked who’d complained, the officers told him, “You’re not shopping,” the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiff says he responded, “I spend money here. I buy clothes at many of the stores in the mall.”
He also claims any hovering outside stores was merely “thoughtful consideration of [making] purchases.”
None the less, security followed him 200 feet into the parking lot, summoned Costa Mesa police, accused him of staring for an hour at Rolex employees, initiated a “mean-spirited detention,” and issued the trespassing warning that bans him from entering the mall or its parking lots until April 2022.
Phillips, who identified himself as a driver for Uber and Lyft, says he has suffered distress that a customer will someday request a trip to the off-limits territory.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages plus a permanent restraining order that “restores his rights and privileges as a shopper and/or visitor of South Coast Plaza.”
U.S. District Court Judge Andrews J. Guilford, who presides in the case, has not yet scheduled a hearing.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.