Shopper Can Pursue Target Defamation Claim

     (CN) – A Target shopper will get a chance to prove in court that she was defamed by an employee who called her a thief, a Texas appeals court ruled on April 23.
     Eunice Wells and her two great-grandchildren visited a Target store in Weatherford, Texas, in January 2013 to return a pair of cellphone covers.
     When Wells failed to produce a receipt for either of the covers, Target employee Kevin Glover accused her of stealing them.
     Wells sued Target for defamation, claiming that other shoppers in the customer service area heard Glover’s accusation.
     Target showed a video at Wells’ deposition, and she admitted that her great-grandchildren didn’t hear Glover’s comment. However, she argued that other shoppers were nearby, but she was too embarrassed to ask for their names.
     The trial court dismissed Wells’ claim, but the Second District Texas Court of Appeals reversed the decision and remanded the case for trial.
     “Viewing her evidence in the light most favorable to her, there is more than a scintilla of evidence of the circumstances that Glover made an audible statement in a public place where it was overheard by others,” Justice Lee Ann Dauphinot wrote.
     She refuted Target’s argument that the store should prevail because Wells did not confirm with the other shoppers that they heard Glover’s statement.
     “We have found no cases that place a burden upon a person who has been defamed in a public place to gather witness names or canvass the audience to determine whether people gathered in the public place overheard a comment that was made there in a public manner,” Dauphinot stated.
     She noted that even though Target established that Wells’ great-grandchildren did not hear Glover’s statement, the company did not prove that nobody heard it.
     Justice Lee Gabriel dissented from her colleagues on the Fort Worth-based court.
     “In her deposition, Wells testified that after the Target employee accused her of stealing, the only person who spoke to her, while she was crying, was a lady who ‘said to me, I love your boots…where did you buy them?'” Gabriel wrote.
     “Nothing about this interaction supports Wells’s position that a third person heard the alleged defamatory statement or that the statement was made under circumstances that someone else would have heard it,” she added.

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