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Big Box Bully's False Accusation Costs It $9 Million

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 30, 2010 1:10 PM

Here is yet one more little guy vs. big bad company story. In this case, bad is a pretty accurate word, especially as far as Houston resident Nitra Gipson is concerned. She has, for the moment, emerged victorious from a court battle with retail Goliath Walmart which, a jury says, falsely accused her of shoplifting, forgery, counterfeiting... and the list goes on. On March 26, Gipson walked away with $9 million loaded in her slingshot but without any comment from her foe except a promise of more litigation.

According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, in 2008, Walmart store employees accused Gipson of counterfeiting and attempting to pass forged Walmart money orders. A student at that time, Gipson had just sold her car to help finance her education and so had several Walmart money orders totaling about $4,100. On the store's accusation, Gipson was charged, arrested and spent two days in the slammer. She was later freed when the Harris County District Attorney's Office declined to file charges after determining that the money orders were quite genuine.

After the DA decided not to prosecute, did the company apologize for the mistake and the ensuing incarceration? They did send a note, but it did not exactly contain an apology. Gipson next received a letter from the company's attorneys demanding money for merchandise they accused her of stealing. The Walmart lawyers demanded payment of $200 or they would hit the hapless Gipson with a shoplifting charge. 

The Houston Chronicle reports that when the whole story was put before a Texas jury, they decided Gipson had been defamed by Walmart when the company falsely accused of forgery and counterfeiting and theft and shoplifting. Last week, the jury awarded Gipson $8.2 million in actual damages and $820,000 in punitive damages.

If you are looking for some kind of mea culpa from Walmart at this point, keep on looking. According to Houston lawyer Lloyd Kelley, who represented Gipson, the company hasn't even requested the false charges be expunged from Gipson's record. The only comment from the company is that they plan to appeal.

For her part, Gipson has since graduated from Texas Southern University and has decided to become a lawyer. Better keep your dukes up, Walmart.

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