Someone Hurt My Feelings in Your Store, $1m Please

By: Michael Seinberg

Everyone knows how the first amendment allows for free speech except in cases where it poses an immediate public danger, like yelling fire in crowded theater. Well, one New Jersey resident obviously thinks that in such a case the theater is clearly at fault. Donnell Battie of Winslow, NJ is suing Wal-Mart for $1 million over an incident that occurred in March 2010.

It seems Mr. Battie was shopping at the Camden, NJ Wal-Mart when a 16-year old grabbed the store’s intercom system and broadcast an announcement ordering all black people to leave the store. The youth was later arrested and charged with harassment and bias intimidation. Wal-Mart has apologized for the incident and has worked to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

However, Mr. Battie claims that he suffered, “Severe and disabling emotional and psychological harm.” While nobody condones racism, or the actions of the youth, one does have to ask if perhaps Mr. Battie is overstating the situation in hopes of obtaining a nice settlement from a company with extraordinarily deep pockets.

The basis for the suit, besides his damaged psyche, is that he claims Wal-Mart was negligent in failing to control access to the store’s public address system. You can’t fault his enthusiasm, but if he’s that sensitive, you have to wonder how he copes on a day-to-day basis living in New Jersey, of all places.  Maybe Mr.Battie should invest in some sensitivity training instead of a lawsuit.

While suits like this make for interesting reading, the truth is they clog the courts, cost taxpayers money and serve no purpose besides enriching the lawyers greedy enough to file them.

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