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Pizza Worker Isn’t Liable for Reporting False Alarm

(CN) - A Papa John's employee is not liable for defamation after incorrectly accusing a customer of carrying a gun in the pizza store, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

Sanford Kelsey paid for his pizza by pulling his wallet out a black fanny pack with silver reflective material. Employee Kelly Tharp apparently mistook the fanny pack for a gun and alerted the police.

Kelsey and his friend, Thomas Williams, were handcuffed, but police released them after finding no weapons.

Williams and Kelsey sued Tharp and Papa John's for defamation, negligence and infliction of emotional distress.

The trial court ruled for Papa John's, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

The state high court, however, sided with the trial court, saying Tharp's statement to police was protected by qualified immunity.

"Because of the compelling public interest in encouraging citizens to report suspected wrongdoing ... the law recognizes a limited defense to civil liability premised on erroneous reports of criminal conduct to police," Justice Dickson wrote.

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