A woman in Alabama, who has said she was wrongly arrested for shoplifting at a Walmart and that she was threatened by the retail giant after the dismissal of her case, has been awarded $2.1m in damages.
Lesleigh Nurse from Semmes, west of Mobile in the southern parts of the state, was awarded the funds by a jury after suing the retail giant, according to local news reports.
Ms Nurse stated in a lawsuit that she was stopped as she was trying to leave a Walmart in November 2016 with groceries that she says she had already purchased, AL.com reported.
She said she had used the self-checkout but that the scanner had frozen. Employees didn’t believe her and she was arrested.
Her case was dismissed a year later, but she was then sent letters from a law firm in Florida, which said that she would be the subject of a civil suit if she didn’t pay a settlement of $200 – more than the price of the groceries she had been accused of taking.
Ms Nurse claimed that Walmart had told the law firm to send the letters and that she wasn’t the only person to receive such letters.
“The defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice of falsely accusing innocent Alabama citizens of shoplifting and thereafter attempting to collect money from the innocently accused,” the lawsuit states. “Walmart funds its asset protection department by intimidating those falsely accused of shoplifting out of making a claim against Walmart out of fear of protracted litigation against an almost limitlessly funded corporate giant.”
According to WKRG, expert testimony in the trial revealed that Walmart and other large retail companies often use such practices in states where it’s legal and that over two years, Walmart has made hundreds of millions of dollars via these settlements.
Walmart’s defence lawyers argued that such settlements are legal in the state of Alabama. A company spokesperson told AL.com that they will file motions in this particular case because it doesn’t “believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and the damages awarded exceed what is allowed by law”.
“We want our customers to have a safe, pleasant shopping experience in our stores. We take measures to help prevent, identify and appropriately handle instances of theft, which is a problem for all retailers that costs the overall US economy tens of billions of dollars each year. We continue to believe our associates acted appropriately,” the spokesperson added.
Court documents show that the jury ruled in favour of Walmart on claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and slander.