JURY AWARDS $1M IN BAUER SUIT
WASHINGTON — A seven-member federal jury on Thursday awarded $1 million to three young African-American males wrongfully stopped for shoplifting at an Eddie Bauer warehouse sale in 1995, but rejected a civil rights claim that could have cost the retailer millions more.
The jury — which considered 24 separate counts, adding up to $85 million in potential money awards — found that Alonzo Jackson and his two high school friends were falsely imprisoned and defamed and that the retailer negligently supervised its security guards. The jury deliberated about seven hours over two days before awarding Jackson $850,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. His friends, Rasheed Plummer and Marco Cunningham, each got $75,000.
The case stems from an Oct. 20, 1995, incident in which an off-duty policeman working security part-time at a temporary warehouse sale stopped Jackson, then 16, as he tried to leave the store and questioned him about the Eddie Bauer shirt he was wearing. When Jackson said he had purchased the shirt the day before, the officer demanded Jackson produce a receipt for it. Lawyers for the men tried to prove a pattern of discrimination at Eddie Bauer stores, calling the case one of “consumer racism.”
Eddie Bauer lawyers countered that no customers other than Jackson and his friends had ever complained about treatment at the sale. They called the incident an isolated one in which the officer acted alone. Eddie Bauer officials apologized for the incident in a letter to the plaintiffs.
At press time, Eddie Bauer had not stated whether it would appeal.