Lesleigh Nurse, of Semmes, was awarded $2.1 million by a Mobile County Circuit Court jury on Monday.
Nurse said in a lawsuit that she was stopped in November 2016 when trying to leave a Walmart with groceries she said she already paid for, according to AL.com. She said she used self-checkout but the scanning device froze. Workers didn’t accept her explanation and she was arrested for shoplifting.
Her case was dismissed a year later, but then she received letters from a Florida law firm threatening a civil suit if she didn’t pay $200 as a settlement, according to her lawsuit. That was more than the cost of the groceries she was accused of stealing.
Nurse’s lawsuit, filed in 2018, exposed a practice of using a little-known state law to collect money from people accused of shoplifting from the retailer. However, some of those people may have been falsely accused.
“The defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice of falsely accusing innocent Alabama citizens of shoplifting and thereafter attempting to collect money from the innocently accused,” the suit contended.
An expert testified that Walmart and other major retailers routinely use the practice in states where sometimes loosely written laws allow it. Testimony revealed Walmart made hundreds of millions of dollars from the practice in a two-year period.
Defense attorneys for Walmart argued the practice is legal under Alabama law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.