An Alabama woman won $2.1 million after Walmart accused her of stealing $48 worth of groceries.
Lesleigh Nurse was reportedly threatened with a lawsuit by the superstore giant unless she repaid $200, local station WKRG News 5 reported.
Nurse filed her own suit against Walmart after she was arrested for shoplifting groceries in November 2016, despite paying for the merchandise at the time.
The products — 11 items in total — included Christmas lights, bread and Captain Crunch cereal.
Nurse was about to exit the store in Semmes, Ala. when she was stopped by a manager. “I remember going in that little room and I was like, ‘This will be resolved, this was an accident, this wasn’t on purpose,’” she told WKRG.
Despite the charges being dropped a year later, Nurse claimed she was blasted with notices from the Florida law firm Palmer Reifler, which threatened to file a civil suit against her if she didn’t fork over $200. The law firm was allegedly directed by Walmart to send Nurse the notices, she claimed.
Her suit alleged, “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.” She later claimed to The New York Times that Walmart did not intend to let her view the surveillance tape of her supposedly shoplifting.
Her court filing also stated, “Walmart funds its asset protection department by intimidating those falsely accused of shoplifting.”
Nurse also explained to WKRG that Walmart witnesses didn’t show up for her three court appearances.
Theft is a felony in Alabama and when someone shoplifts less than $500 worth of merchandise, they can be fined up to $6,000 or spend one year in jail.
However, WKRG reported that during her trial, an expert testified that Walmart often uses “civil recovery laws” in order to collect money from those accused of shoplifting.
Nurse claimed “abuse of process” in the lawsuit, which was filed in 2018 and delayed by the pandemic. WKRG reported that a unanimous jury recently ruled in Nurse’s favor and awarded her $2.1 million dollars in punitive damages.
However, Walmart told WKRG in a statement that they “don’t believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and the damages awarded exceed what is allowed by law” and “will be filing post-trial motions.”
“We want our customers to have a safe, pleasant shopping experience in our stores,” the statement continued. “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.”
Despite reaching a settlement, Nurse claimed she still has much work to do to fix her reputation.