Teen accused of shoplifting sues Kmart Columbia youth seeks $30,000

December 11, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Columbia teen-ager and his mother have filed suit agains Kmart after the youth was falsely accused of shoplifting a cap and detained by a security officer for 15 minutes in February.

The 15-year-old ninth-grader at Howard High School was not allowed to leave the store at the Dobbins Shopping Center in Columbia until he turned over his cap for the guard to inspect.

The youth, William Richardson Jr., and his mother, Marion Richardson, are seeking $30,000 in damages in the suit, which was filed in Howard Circuit Court on Dec. 3.

The Richardsons say in the suit that they suffered from severe emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment because of the defendants' allegedly "grossly outrageous conduct."

"It was certainly embarrassing to his mother and to himself," said Isaac Joe Jr., a Columbia attorney for the Richardsons.

"The suggestion that he was stealing and, on top of that, to be detained and searched, it was insulting," the attorney said.

The Richardsons name the retail chain as well as a manager and security officer at the store in Owen Brown village.

The suit does not identify the manager or the officer.

Mr. Joe said he plans to use Kmart Corp. records to get the names of the employees.

The complaint accuses Kmart of false detainment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, training and supervision practices.

The suit contends the retail chain did not properly train and supervise employees who handle security at its stores to accurately identify a suspected shoplifter.

Kathy Everton, manager of the Dobbins store, referred comment to corporate officials in Troy, Mich. A Kmart spokesman declined to discuss the suit, saying the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.

The youth was shopping at the Kmart store with his mother and sister for about one hour on the evening of Feb. 15, the suit says.

The family lives in the 5400 block of White Mane in the Long Reach village, the suit says.

After browsing and buying several items, the family members left the store and were headed for their car when they were stopped by a security officer, the suit says.

The officer ordered the Richardson youth to go back into the store, where the teen was questioned about a skull cap he had in his coat pocket, the suit says.

The youth "vehemently" denied that he stole anything, but the officer refused to listen, the suit says.

The plaintiff turned over his cap and the officer inspected it, finding no price tag on it and realizing it had been worn for some time, the suit says.

The Richardsons were then permitted to leave.

Howard Circuit Judge James Dudley has been assigned the case, which has not been scheduled for a hearing.

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