Man sues mall over claims of shoplifting Sears shopper seeks $5.1 million

September 17, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Baltimore man claims in a civil suit that he was falsely accused of shoplifting and detained in a small room for about 45 minutes at The Mall of Columbia.

Kenneth Wilson, of the 4000 block of Belle Ave., is seeking $5.1 million in damages in a suit he filed in Howard Circuit Court over the Feb. 17 incident, which began with the purchase of two shirts and pants.

The suit charges false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation, negligence, assault and battery against Sears, Roebuck & Co.; Rouse Co. of Columbia, the mall's owner; and John Starr, a Sears security guard.

Mr. Wilson, who was never charged in the incident, contends in the Sept. 8 suit that he had receipts for the clothing, but mall and store officials never asked for them.

"The actions of the defendants were especially egregious in light of the ease with which Mr. Wilson could have disproved the false accusations of shoplifting," the suit says.

Mr. Wilson, a 33-year-old longshoreman, could not be reached for comment.

His attorney, Andrew Levine of Baltimore, said Sears and mall officials were contacted before the suit was filed, but neither company would take responsibility for the incident.

Ann Marie Cesare, manager of the Sears store, declined to comment. Cathy Lickteig, a spokeswoman for Rouse, said she was unaware of the suit.

The suit charges that Sears and mall officials were negligent in failing to fully investigate the shoplifting allegation before detaining Mr. Wilson in the room.

The suit says Mr. Wilson went to the mall to buy two shirts and exchange two pairs of pants at Sears. He then took the clothing to his car and went back to the mall.

As he re-entered the mall, Mr. Wilson was "summarily, without provocation, and without any warning, roughly grabbed from behind" by a security guard later identified as Mr. Starr, the mall says.

Mr. Wilson attempted to resist the "unwarranted and unprovoked attack" until four or five additional guards came to assist Mr. Starr, the suit says.

Without asking for a sales receipts for the clothing, Mr. Starr accused Mr. Wilson of shoplifting within the earshot of a crowd of onlookers, the suit says.

The false statements made by Mr. Starr harmed the character and reputation of Mr. Wilson, impaired his standing in the community, and caused him mental anguish and humiliation, the suit says.

Mr. Wilson says in the suit that he was placed in a wrestling hold and forcibly led to a small, windowless room. Mr. Starr told Mr. Wilson that Sears personnel had a videotape of him shoplifting at the store, a statement the suit says is not true.

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