• The Mobile County Circuit Court awarded $2.1 million in damages to Semmes resident Lesleigh Nurse
  • Walmart accused Nurse of shoplifting in 2016 and even demanded $200 from her once the charge was dropped
  • The company will be filing motions as it did not believe the jury's verdict "is supported by evidence"

An Alabama woman has been awarded $2.1 million in punitive damages after she was wrongly accused by Walmart of shoplifting in one of the retailer's stores back in 2016.

A Mobile County Circuit Court jury unanimously ruled Monday in favor of Lesleigh Nurse, the Associated Press reported.

The Semmes resident was trying to leave her local Walmart in 2016 with groceries she had already paid for when one of the retailer's asset protection managers stopped her, a report by said.

Nurse said she used a self-checkout counter with a broken scanning device and needed an employee to assist her, but the store's employees did not accept her explanation, according to the outlet. She was arrested after being charged with stealing 11 grocery items that added up to around $48. The items included a loaf of bread and cereal, among many others

The criminal charge, however, was later dropped when no one from Walmart appeared in court.

Walmart then sent letters to Nurse through a Florida law firm, informing her that the company would file a civil suit against her if she did not pay them $200, court documents showed.

Vince Kilborn, Nurse's attorney, said Walmart wanted to prosecute his client "solely for the purpose of getting ... civil recovery or money."

An expert testified that Walmart routinely uses civil recovery laws in many states to demand money from people the company has accused of stealing, as per WKRG 5.

"[Walmart] engaged in a pattern and practice of falsely accusing innocent Alabama citizens of shoplifting and thereafter attempting to collect money from the innocently accused," Nurse's lawsuit read.

"Walmart funds its asset protection department by intimidating those falsely accused of shoplifting out of making a claim against Walmart out of fear of protracted litigation against an almost limitlessly funded corporate giant," the suit continued.

Assistant law professor Ryan Sullivan from the University of Nebraska claimed that Walmart charged around 1.4 million people across the United States with criminal theft of property in the span of two years and ended up collecting more than $300 million through their civil demand letters in the same period.

Defense attorneys for Walmart claimed the practice is legal under Alabama law.

The company also released a statement Tuesday following the jury's verdict.

"We don’t believe the verdict is supported by the evidence and the damages awarded exceed what is allowed by law. We will be filing post-trial motions," the company said.

Walmart expressed confidence in having adequate inventory as it raised its outlook following a solid third quarter
Walmart expressed confidence in having adequate inventory as it raised its outlook following a solid third quarter GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA via AFP / Brandon Bell