Friday, July 9, 2010
Give Me Back the Doritos!
But it is Aimee Green's report on the award given to the Dollar Tree customer falsely arrested for allegedly stealing a bag of Doritos that caught my eye. This is the story:
"A Multnomah County jury has decided that Dollar Tree Stores Inc. must pay a teen $51,000 after one of its Lloyd Center store managers reportedly grabbed her purse and looked inside it for stolen merchandise. The store's assistant manager mistakenly thought he saw a bag of unpaid Doritos tucked into the purse of Alicia Tillery, then a 13-year-old eighth grader. Tillery was at the store with her sister and two cousins to buy baking supplies for Father's Day in June 2008. She testified that she was walking out of the store when a man yanked on her purse. He looked inside her purse before walking back into the store without explaining who he was or apologizing, she said. The encounter left her with a hurt arm.
Tillery called her father. Russell Tillery testified that he arrived at the store and was surprised when the unapologetic assistant manager, Eric Wayne Smith, gave him a fake name and said he could stop whomever he wanted to. Russell Tillery filed suit in his daughter's name, saying he was disturbed by the way his daughter was treated and hoped to send a message to the 3,800-store, Fortune 500 company that would result in changes. 'I don't want to see any human being have to suffer that humiliation,' he said.
During a two-day trial this week, attorney Greg Kafoury criticized the company for not having a written policy about stopping or grabbing people suspected of shoplifting. Kafoury also criticized the company for promoting Smith to manager and Smith, whom he accused of racially profiling Tillery and her three companions. The girls are black. Smith is white. But Carol Bernick, an attorney for Dollar Tree, said the case had nothing to do with race. She said 30 to 40 percent of the customers at the Lloyd Center location are African American. 'This case as we have seen involves a 10-second interaction,' Bernick told jurors. "...Mr. Smith made a mistake when he thought he saw Dollar Tree merchandise in her bag."
Contradicting the girls' version of events, Smith had said that the girls were loud and swearing. Store surveillance video didn't include sound, but Tillery's attorneys pointed to it to show the girls didn't appear animated. Smith said he tapped Alicia Tillery's shoulder. When he peered into her purse and saw he made a mistake, he apologized, Bernick said.
Bernick said the company's unwritten practice is not to stop shoplifters because the risk of something going wrong is high. Smith did not testify because he voluntarily quit and couldn't be located for trial. In an incident report he wrote after Alicia Tillery's attorneys contacted the company, Smith said he was suspicious of the group of girls because he saw one of them try to put a soft drink in her backpack. Tillery's attorneys pointed to store video that shows none of the girls had a backpack.
The lawsuit sought $207,000. Jurors declined to award money for racial discrimination, but awarded Tillery $50,000 for false imprisonment and $1,000 for her hurt arm."
Years ago my former partner, Nancy, and I represented a woman who shop stolen a "double-deuce" of malt liquor and a carton of cigarettes. The armed store security guard hauled this pathetic young woman into a security room and raped her. The risk manager for that international supermarket chain approached me on the street outside our office building and characterized the events as "the shop lifter who gave our security guy the blow job." Real nice, huh? Imagine that this is your daughter or son making a stupid mistake. Chills.