TSU grad wins $9 million in Wal-Mart suit
By CINDY GEORGE
March 28, 2010, 7:35AM
A Houston woman who was wrongly arrested in 2008 at the Walmart in Meyer Park has won a $9 million jury verdict.
Nitra Gipson, 24, filed a civil lawsuit against the retailer after store employees accused her of trying to exchange counterfeit Walmart money orders for cash. She was arrested and spent two days in jail. The Harris County District Attorney's Office declined to pursue charges after it was determined that the money orders were genuine.
That meant Gipson had been falsely accused and falsely arrested.
Company lawyers based in Utah later sent her a letter alleging that she owed Walmart money for taking merchandise. The letter threatened to pursue a shoplifting charge if she didn't pay $200.
“The jury found that she had been defamed by being accused of forgery, counterfeiting, theft and shoplifting,” said Houston lawyer Lloyd Kelley, who represented Gipson.
A Harris County court jury on Friday determined that Wal-Mart Stores Texas should pay $8.2 million in actual damages and $820,000 in punitive damages.
John Ramirez, a Houston lawyer who represents the retailer, directed questions to Walmart media relations.
A company spokesperson did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Kelley said Walmart lawyers indicated that they would appeal. That means resolving the case may take another few years, he said.
“The main problem for Walmart has been the bad publicity,” Kelley said, adding that the retailer hasn't offered an apology, hasn't asked that charges against Gipson be expunged and has not revealed any company policy changes resulting from the incident.
Since then, Gipson has graduated from Texas Southern University and wants to become a lawyer, Kelley said. She sold her car to help raise tuition two years ago, which is why she had $4,100 in money orders.
“She was as innocent as can be,” her attorney said.
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