A Portland, Ore. man is suing a local Costco Wholesale store for $670,000 because, he claims, employees of the retail giant unlawfully detained him and severely injured him after he refused to show the receipt for his purchases.
The most fascinating aspect of the lawsuit, though, is that one dedicated Costco employee allegedly responded to the simple refusal to show a receipt with a feisty karate kick that broke the man’s leg in multiple places.
The plaintiff in the civil suit is Timothy Walls, The Oregonian reports.
In his complaint, filed last week, Walls says the karate kick kerfuffle went down on Jan. 28, 2013.
Walls was pushing his cart out of the membership-only warehouse club. He says he was already out the door and into the parking lot. Costco contends he was still inside the store.
Whatever the case, Walls disagreed with a Costco policy asserting that “all receipts and merchandise will be inspected” as customers leave “[t]o ensure that all members are correctly charged for the merchandise purchased.”
Walls, who was trying to leave Costco with $102.66 in merchandise he had purchased, didn’t agree with that policy. He said so. In response, a Costco employee grabbed hold of the shopping cart Walls was pushing.
The employee wouldn’t let go of the cart, despite Walls’ urging that he do so.
Walls responded, the complaint states, by grabbing the employee’s collar.
That’s when the karate part happened.
A second employee arrived on the scene and performed “a martial arts type strike with his leg,” the suit claims.
The second employee learned the impressive combat maneuver while he was a member of the U.S. military, the suit suggests.
One of the attorneys representing Walls, Clayton Morrison, said the case will likely turn on whether Costco employees can show they had any reasonable suspicion that Walls was stealing anything. The exceedingly well-trodden principle of law at issue is shopkeeper’s privilege.
“The central issue in the case is … ‘What can Costco lawfully do?'” Morrison told The Oregonian. “Can they actually stop you and take your property from you? Our answer is, ‘No.'”
Morrison suggested that Costco has options less draconian than breaking legs. It could, for example, cancel the memberships of customers who refuse to submit to post-checkout searches.
An attorney representing Costco, Bill Stockton, has filed a motion alleging that Walls attacked store employees and, thus, his injuries were “the sole and direct result of (his) own conduct, fault, and negligence.”
Walls has asked the Multnomah County Circuit Court to award him $20,000 for lost wages, $150,000 for medical expenses and $500,000 for pain and suffering.