Woman who sued Walmart for shoplifting arrest gets $2.1 million

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An Alabama woman who sued Walmart for claiming she had been wrongfully arrested on charges of shoplifting and that the ordeal had damaged her reputation was awarded $2.1 million in damages from a jury this week.

The verdict, reached Monday by a jury in the Mobile County Circuit Court, was confirmed by Chuck Lewis, a deputy clerk for the court’s civil division.

The woman, Lesleigh Nurse, said in an interview Wednesday that she had just finished using a self-service checkout counter at the Walmart in Semmes, Ala., on Nov. 27, 2016, when store employees accused her of failing to pay for some groceries left in the store. totaled $48.

Despite her attempts to explain that her husband had paid the full $122 with his debit card, Ms Nurse said, she was held in a back room at the store until the deputy arrived and told her to supervise the website. from the sheriff for an arrest warrant.

Ms Nurse, 36, said the warrant charging her with shoplifting was issued 10 days later. She said she then turned herself in to the county jail in Mobile, Ala., where she remained for about four hours until she was released on bail. Semmes, where Mrs. Nurse lives, is about 15 miles northwest of Mobile.

The shoplifting charges were dropped in March 2017 when the store’s asset protection specialist failed to show up in court, but Ms. Nurse said she continued to receive letters from Walmart threatening to sue her if she didn’t pay $200.

“It was a nightmare,” said Mrs Nurse. “It was a trap. That’s what it felt like.”

The jury found Walmart liable for misuse of the process — bringing malicious legal action against someone intended to harass them.

But based on Mrs Nurse’s claims that she had been falsely arrested, imprisoned, maliciously prosecuted and slandered, the jurors sided with the shopping giant.

Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesperson, said Wednesday that the retailer would appeal the verdict and that it believed the $2.1 million in damages awarded by the jury exceeded the amount allowed under state law in Alabama.

“We continue to believe that our employees have acted correctly,” said Mr. hargrove. “We do not believe the verdict is supported by the evidence.”

Mr. Hargrove noted that Walmart’s civilian recovery program, a program that had been criticized for aggressive tactics to settle with those accused of shoplifting, was halted in 2018. He disputed that the program was revenue-driven, as some critics had said.

“Civil recovery programs have been reported as profit centers, and they are not,” he said. “And that characterization of our company was wrong.”

The District Attorney’s Office and the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

When first confronted by Walmart employees at the exit of the store, Mrs. Nurse said she thought it was all a misunderstanding, but then, she said, “the ground crumbled right under my feet.”

“I thought, ‘There’s no fighting,'” she continued. “I have done nothing.”

Ms Nurse said Walmart employees berated her during the meeting and asked how she could shoplift in front of her 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. Since then, she said, her children have been ridiculed by other students for their mother’s arrest. A carpet and furniture cleaning business she runs with her husband has suffered immeasurably, she said.

Throughout the ordeal, Ms Nurse said, Walmart refused repeated requests from its attorneys for CCTV footage of the store. She said the video was critical and that a store employee helped her scan items at the register, some of which had to be entered manually due to a problem with the kiosk.

“I believe they are so intimidating and so big,” Mrs Nurse said of Walmart. “They have grown so much that they feel like they can do anything to anyone. That is not true. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

During the civil trial, which lasted about three weeks, the judge criticized Walmart for the “deliberate loss” of the security camera footage, according to court records. The judge, James T. Patterson, said the court would advise the jury that the videotapes were “destroyed by the defendants with the intent “to deprive the plaintiff of the advantage of viewing them” and that the jury must therefore assume that the content of the missing videos would be detrimental to the suspects.

The Walmart spokesperson said he was unable to answer questions about the videos being destroyed. According to the spokesperson, the former asset protection store employee appeared at Ms Nurse’s originally planned criminal trial and was informed at the time that it was being postponed. He left the company and did not appear at the rescheduled hearing, the spokesman said.

Vince Kilborn, a lawyer for Mrs. Nurse, said on Wednesday that Walmart was doing its utmost to make Mrs Nurse’s life miserable.

“Her reputation is still a thief,” he said. “She fought the world’s largest retailer for over $48 and won.”

Ms Nurse said the damage caused by the arrest cannot be undone.

“There is no amount of money that can get that away,” she said.

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