BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – Newlywed shoppers claim Wal-Mart’s false accusation that they tried to steal $2.90 worth of chicken neck bones caused the wife to be falsely arrested and lose her job, her husband to be deported, and both to lose their car, all their possessions and their house – though Wal-Mart’s security video showed they had paid for the damn chicken bones.
Mary Hill Bonin sued Wal-Mart and several of its managers in Jefferson County Court.
Bonin says the imbroglio ensued when she went shopping at the Adamsville Wal-Mart on July 1, 2007, with her husband of 2 months, who was not yet a U.S. citizen.
They used the self-checkout counter to save time.
Bonin says the scanner would not register the $2.90 worth of chicken necks, so she asked a Wal-Mart employee for help. The employee checked the machine and told her “it’s okay,” according to the complaint.
The Bonins left and showed their receipt to the greeter and door guard, who accused them of stealing the neck bones. According to the complaint, things got out of hand pretty fast:
“Plaintiff told these employees to look again as the item was on the bottom of the receipt and therefore accounted for. The security guard started screaming and asked to see the identifications of the plaintiff and her husband. The security guard screamed at the plaintiff and her husband saying they were going to be deported. The security guard, in overly loud voice, stated plaintiff and her husband were illegal and what were they doing in this country. Plaintiff asked for the assistant manager. The security guard answered by saying plaintiff and her husband were going to jail.”
Bonin and her husband, “Ricky,” say they offered 4 times to scan the chicken bones again, and asked the Wal-Mart guards to look at the security video “if they thought they did something wrong. Plaintiff told them the camera would show that they scanned the items purchased.”
The guard refused to look at the video, but an assistant manager did.
The complaint continues: “The assistant manager said in presence of plaintiff and her husband: ‘I see where she scanned it, I see where it’s been rung up.’ Plaintiff responded: ‘I did scan it, I told you.’ Ricky, plaintiff’s husband said I’ll pay for it again if you want me to. The assistant manager then said to the security guard: ‘Well what do you want to do?’ The security guard said he wanted to put plaintiff and her husband in jail.”
When the security guard found that Mary Hill Bonin had worked at another Wal-Mart, he called that store and informed it “that she was being charged with a Theft of Property in the Third Degree,” even though the assistant manager already had told him that the chicken bones had been bought and paid for, the Bonins say.
Overruling the assistant manager, the Wal-Mart guard called police, who handcuffed man and wife, led them out through the store that way and threw them in jail.
The alarming complaint continues:
Mary Hill Bonin was held on charges of Theft of Property in the Third Degree.
Adamsville Wal-Mart is believed to have called INS and had Mary Hill Bonin’s husband deported. Mary Hill Bonin was denied bail and was not taken before a magistrate. Wal-Mart and Adamsville police failed to make a proper investigation causing Mary Hill Bonin to be arrested and to remain in jail without probable cause. On the date of the arrest, on July 1, 2007, the security officer for Adamsville Wal-Mart, called Wal-Mart in Alabaster accusing plaintiff of shoplifting or theft, a crime of moral turpitude and slanderous per se. This act of calling the Alabaster Wal-Mart by the Loss Prevention Officer of Adamsville Wal-Mart, was intentional, with malice, and made with the intention of causing the plaintiff to suffer with a bad reputation or to suffer consequences of being labeled a thief. …
“As a result of being in jail and being accused of being a thief, plaintiff Mary Hill Bonin lost her home, her car, all of her personal belongings and her husband was deported. Mary Hill Bonin seeks punitive damages for loss of income, loss of personal property, lost profits, lost time and imprisonment, libel and slander, mental anguish, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, malicious prosecution, slander, negligence and conversion.” And she wants Wal-Mart enjoined from searching and accusing customers without proof.
After all the false charges were dropped, Mary Bonin says, Wal-Mart refused to refund the $2.90 she had paid for the neck bones.
The Bonins are represented by Lois Beasley-Carlisle, with Carlisle & Carlisle.