Byline: Carol Emert

WASHINGTON — An $85 million civil suit against Eddie Bauer Inc. was filed Monday in Maryland state court on behalf of two African-American teenagers who allege that they were mistreated by security guards at a temporary Bauer warehouse store.
In the suit, Alonzo Jackson, 16, alleges that during his Oct. 20 shopping trip to a warehouse store in Prince George’s County, Maryland, he was ordered by a white security guard to produce a receipt for an Eddie Bauer shirt he was wearing. Jackson could not produce the receipt because he had bought the shirt the prior day, according to the suit.
Jackson was ordered to leave his shirt at the store until he returned with the receipt.
During the incident, Rasheed Plummer, 17, who was with Jackson, was detained by a second white security guard, according to the boys’ lawyer, Donald M. Temple, who held a news conference Monday in his office here. Jackson and Plummer were at the news conference but did not speak to reporters.
The suit asks for compensatory damages of $3.5 million and punitive damages of $70 million for Jackson, and compensatory damages of $1.5 million and punitive damages of $10 million for Plummer. The suit lists six personal injury charges, including assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent hiring. A civil rights charge was also filed on behalf of Jackson.
Rick Fersch, president of Eddie Bauer, said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon that company lawyers “made an offer of a settlement with them and they had not gotten back to us. Obviously we will continue to work with them to try to resolve the differences. We want a fair and equitable solution.”
Fersch said he could not comment on the specific charges but called the event “a tragic incident, and we are working very hard to see that something like this does not happen again.”
Temple said the boys were humiliated and “publicly emasculated” before a crowd of people in the store, including schoolmates. Plummer’s mother, Joyce Parker-Plummer, told reporters that her son is distraught and that both of the boys are seeking counseling.
The lawsuit does not accuse the guards of physically harming the boys, but the assault charge says the officers “created fear and apprehension…of an unlawful, unjustified touching or contact.”
The complaint also said the store managers, all of whom were white, knew that African-Americans were being singled out and monitored by the security guards while Caucasian customers were not. Consequently, Eddie Bauer “knew or should have known” that the guards “posed unreasonable risks of harm” to shoppers, the complaint said. — Fairchild News Service

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