$1M For Racist Comment over Walmart PA?

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4116
$1M For Racist Comment over Walmart PA?

Should Walmart have to pay damages because someone got on to their PA system and made a racist comment?

A black man who says he suffered emotional distress when he heard a hijacked public address announcement at a Wal-Mart store in New Jersey telling all blacks to leave has filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages from the company.

Donnell Battie says Wal-Mart was negligent, careless and reckless and showed deliberate indifference by failing to properly control access to the P.A. system.

Battie?s lawsuit was first filed in Camden County Superior Court in March. It was moved this week to U.S. District Court in Camden, the New Jersey Law Journal reported Tuesday.

The lawsuit stems from a March 14, 2010, incident at a Wal-Mart in the community of Turnersville in Washington Township, N.J. Shortly before 5 p.m., someone commandeered the store?s public address system and announced: ?Attention Wal-Mart customers: All black people leave the store now.?

A store manager quickly went on the intercom system and apologized for the remark, and police were summoned, according to media reports at the time. A 16-year-old was later arrested on harassment and bias intimidation charges.

Battie says he was in the store and contends the announcement led to depression, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep and appetite, paranoia, anti-social tendencies and loss of enjoyment in activities.

Battie's attorney, John Klamo, says Battie had already been getting professional help for previous traumatic incidents.

"Mr. Battie is an individual who has been under care of a doctor for various disabilities dealing with his psychological makeup," Klamo told the Law Journal. He's in Wal-Mart and something of this nature presents its ugly head and it brings up past situations in his life that affected him."

Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but told msnbc.com:
?We were appalled by this incident and are amazed that anyone could be so backward and mean-spirited in this day and age. We are sorry it happened and apologized at the time to any of our customers and associates who heard it. We updated our intercom system in this store to prevent this from happening in the future.?

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/15/11717888-man-sues-wal-mart-over-all-black-people-leave-announcement?lite

Should taxpayers have to fund counseling services for those who heard it?

Office spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld said in the statement that its victim-witness unit has contacted the store's management, offering counseling services to anyone affected by the announcement. The county's Human Relations Commission was offering similar help.

http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=7338784

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

Personally, I think the plaintiff is probably full of $hit and just looking for a payout. This is a frivilous and ridiculous lawsuit if I've ever heard of one. Still, the County or Walmart's not really in the position just yet to also say the guy is only after money, so they should offer counselling, as stupid as that sounds. What people think and how businesses and govt agencies should act are different.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

If he was really damaged by what was said, he would be suing the person who said it, not the store whose PA system was hijacked. Offering counseling is a nice gesture, especially since it seems the victim has a history of emotional problems.

I think counseling services are something the government should be funding along with all other medical care. Counseling is expensive and insurance doesn't usually cover it, or cover much of it, and it can be very helpful for a lot of people. There should be no shame in mental illness, it should be treated no different than any other illness, but too many people can't afford to get the help they need.

RebeccaA'07's picture
Joined: 11/19/07
Posts: 1628

Seriously? He is now emotionally distrubed because of a comment? Obviously it was inappropriate and racist but Wal-Mart is not at fault. They can't have someone stand over every single phone in a store for every second of the day. If he is that damaged, sue the person who caused the distress. People will sue over anything, total waste of time and money.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

It sounds like the man has a whole host of psychological problems that are unrelated to the PA comment. I think he should accept the apology and offer of counselling. That he is suing sounds like he is seeking a cash grab.

I don't want to belittle the seriousness of the comment. It was an absolutely disgusting thing to do! But really? I am sure that is not the worst racial comment a person has ever heard. How does this man get through life if such a comment is going to affect him to that degree. If someone went on the PA and said "All Ukrainians leave the store" I would be pissed, but I wouldn't let it ruin my life.