False arrest and intimidation by Walmart have won an Alabama woman $2.1 million in damages, in a Monday ruling in Mobile County.

Lesleigh Nurse was shopping in Walmart in November of 2016, and chose to use their self-checkout stand. She paid for her groceries by card, but the device froze after registering her payment and before printing a receipt. According to Nurse, she brought the malfunction to a staff member’s attention and attempted to leave. She was then stopped at door check. The checker did not listen to her explanation or attempt to verify her story, but had her arrested for shoplifting on the spot.

Despite Nurse’s bank records showing the purchase as having gone through, the shoplifting charge took a year to be dismissed. After it was, Nurse received a series of letters from a Florida law firm threatening a civil suit if she didn’t pay a $200 settlement – over four times the cost of the groceries she’d been accused of stealing. Looking online, Nurse found other accounts that were very similar to hers, down to the Florida law firm.

“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,” said the lawsuit that Nurse made against Walmart for the intimidation tactic.

According to the attorneys defending Walmart in the lawsuit, the practice of demanding a settlement even after criminal charges have been dismissed or disproven is legal in Alabama, but a jury has disagreed. Walmart has been ordered to pay Nurse $2.1 million in damages for both the false arrest on the testimony of an uninformed employee, and the willful intimidation verging on extortion afterwards.

According to Walmart’s own financial records, entered as evidence in the lawsuit, Walmart has made hundreds of millions of dollars through such settlements just in the period of 2019-2021.

Photo: Sundry Photography