Houstonian awarded $9M in suit against Walmart

March 26, 2010 8:36:52 PM PDT
A college student was thrown in jail for three days after a quick trip to a Houston Walmart. It's a mistake that is costing the company millions of dollars. The woman accused of trying to cash a fake check was awarded more than $9 million in her suit against Walmart. A jury found that employees at a southwest Houston store failed to play by their own rules.

At 24, Nitra Gipson took on one of the largest corporate discount retailers in the world and won.

"They saw my story and they saw that I was innocent of everything that Walmart had accused me of," said Gipson.

Two years ago, Gipson, a Texas Southern University student at the time, sold her car to pay her tuition and in return received five Walmart money orders totaling more than $4,000. Her attempt to try and cash them would cost her in a way she never imagined,

"I went to jail, just for trying to cash my money orders," said Gipson.

While the Walmart bank verified the money orders were good and authorized the transaction, store employees took it upon themselves to play detective, and decided the money orders were fake and called police. Gipson was arrested, charged with forgery and booked into jail where she stayed for several days even though the money orders were real. Gipson says she was humiliated.

"I've only been a customer of Walmart. That's it. A loyal customer of Walmart and they basically failed me," said Gipson.

What's more, her attorney says Walmart store employees are not trained to determine whether money orders are authentic and company policy forbids them from even trying. A jury decided Walmart's actions were negligent and awarded Gipson more than $9 million.

"Walmart basically did not have the proper authority figures to make this type of decision and innocently accused someone of forgery, which is a felony, and could have ruined her reputation for the rest of her life," said Anthony Jackson, jury foreman.

Though she's somewhat reserved, Gipson is ecstatic and says justice was served. Her victory is proof that no matter how big you might be, she says, "Some things they have to pay attention to. Some things just shouldn't be overlooked."

Gipson's attorney says it's his understanding that Walmart intends to file an appeal. We contacted Walmart for a comment to the jury's decision and are still awaiting a response.


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