Alabama woman who won $2.1 million against Walmart out to clear her name

Alabama News

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A Mobile woman who was awarded $2.1 million after winning a lawsuit against Walmart is out to clear her name after claiming she was falsely accused of shoplifting from the Semmes Walmart and arrested in 2016.

Lesleigh Nurse said she was at the self-checkout at the Semmes Walmart with her husband and three kids when she was dealing with a malfunctioning scanner, even getting help from a Walmart associate. After she thought she’d finished and paid, she was stopped by an asset protection manager.

“I remember going in that little room and thinking this will be resolved, this is an accident, this isn’t on purpose,” Nurse said.

She was eventually charged with stealing $48 worth of groceries — 11 items in all — including Christmas lights, a loaf of bread, and Cap’n Crunch cereal. She was arrested, but the criminal charge was dropped when no one from Walmart showed up to court. However, she said the damage to her reputation had already been done and her ability to make a living was affected by the arrest.

Nurse said she also received demand letters from a Walmart-affiliated law firm that offered to drop the matter if she paid them $200.

“At first you think ‘Well, I’ll pay it and it will all go away,'” Nurse said. “But then, I’m like I didn’t do anything wrong. Why would I pay for something I didn’t do?”

Ryan Sullivan, a law professor at the University of Nebraska, testified during the case that Walmart routinely uses what are known as civil recovery laws in many states to get people they’ve accused of shoplifting to pay up. He claimed that in a two-year period, Walmart charged some 1.4 million people across the country with criminal theft of property and ended up collecting more than $300 million through their civil demand letters in the same period.

Nurse’s lawsuit against Walmart charged the company with “abuse of process,” meaning the company used the criminal charges to bolster their chances of civil recovery.

“Exactly, they prosecute her solely for the purpose of getting what they call civil recovery or money,” said Vince Kilborn, Nurse’s attorney.

In addition, Walmart never produced a video during the trial that would have proved Nurse shoplifted or didn’t.

“It would have shown the truth, and that they didn’t want the truth to be shown,” she said.

At the end of this lawsuit, the jury sided with Nurse and awarded her $2.1 million dollars in punitive damages.

“I hope it makes a difference,” Nurse said. “I don’t want anybody else to have to go through this again.”

Walmart offered this statement Tuesday:

“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 U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars each year. We continue to believe our associates acted appropriately. We don’t believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and the damages awarded exceed what is allowed by law. We will be filing post-trial motions.”

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