Wal-Mart sued over teen’s bogus P.A. announcement

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2012

At a Wal-Mart store in Turnersville, N.J. in 2010, a 16-year-old visitor got hold of the store’s public address system momentarily and announced to shoppers, “Attention Walmart customers: All black people must leave the store.” “A manager quickly made his own announcement, apologizing for the message. … The teenager was charged with harassment and bias intimidation, but now Donnell Battie, who is black, is suing Walmart claiming the store was negligent and reckless and showed deliberate indifference by not keeping the P.A. system safe from abuse.” [Gloucester County Times]

{ 11 comments }

1 Stella Baskomb 05.16.12 at 1:29 pm

“suing Walmart claiming the store was negligent and reckless and showed deliberate indifference by not keeping the P.A. system safe from abuse”

Which harmed Mr. Battie by . . . (?)

2 Bill Alexander 05.16.12 at 2:37 pm

Which harmed Mr. Battie by hurting his itsy bitsy feelings.

3 John Burgess 05.16.12 at 3:25 pm

Yeah… I’m trying to figure out what law was broken here.

4 Chris Hoey 05.16.12 at 4:44 pm

Let us hope the judge in this case recognizes his duty as the gatekeeper for such clearly meretricious law suits, but it is, of course in NJ, so we may be disappointed.

5 captnhal 05.16.12 at 5:28 pm

Do you think that Walmart getting sued instead of the 16-year-old has anything to do with deeper pockets? It seems that in this country it’s worse to be rich than wrong.

6 Richard Nieporent 05.16.12 at 9:19 pm

We know why Donnell Battie sued Walmart. It’s a chance for him to get a big payday. What no one has commented on is that the teenager was charged with harassment and bias intimidation. which I find these charges to be outrageous. The legal definition of harassment is: the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands. The act of bias intimidation requires the committing of a crime along with the intimidation.

http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/criminal/charges/bias3.pdf

What he did was to be a jerk. Hopefully it is not against the law to be a jerk, because the jails would be overflowing. Unless he broke into the room with the PA system there is absolutely nothing that they should be able to charge him with.

7 Bob 05.17.12 at 4:30 pm

“Which harmed Mr. Battie by . . .”

It’s amazing that anyone in this day and age doesn’t think racism is harmful. Tolerating such open racism teaches racists that racism is OK. The harmful effects to civilization of raising a generation that thinks bigotry is acceptable are self-evident.

I do agree that this is a frivolous lawsuit, but Walmart’s lack of guilt does not mean the action was not harmful.

8 Don 05.17.12 at 5:25 pm

Unlikely that he broke into a room. The code to initiate the page from any phone in the building, at Walmart, used to be really well known. After it became common knowledge, and there were frequent pranks, Walmart changed it.

This kid just needed an insider to tell him the code, at that particular location, and access to an unwatched phone somewhere on the sales floor.

9 Stu 05.17.12 at 5:53 pm

Mr. Bob–The kid who spoke the offending words was “tolerated” in what way? By whom? Which generation has been raised that thinks bigotry is acceptable?

FYI, this is a civil action, not a criminal one. In such matter, liability and damages resulting therefrom are the key issues. Guilt has nothing to do with it. And, as far as harm is concerned, hurt feelings don’t count under the law, for any number of sensible, logical reasons. If you have ever said anything in a moment of unguarded anger, then what should be your liability to one whose feelings you hurt? Leaving aside the profound difficulties in proving by objective evidence that one’s feelings have in fact been hurt, how does one calculate the damages due the “victim?”

I could go on, but at this point I would think you have read enough to realize that perhaps it might be more productive to think things through before posting them for all the world to see.

Finally, based upon the implications of your post, would it be unfair or inaccurate to state that this website’s content, purpose and point of view have apparently left you baffled at the very least?

10 Bill Alexander 05.17.12 at 7:10 pm

Bob, what should Walmart feel guilt over? The fact that some idiot figured out how to use the PA system? What if he had found the megaphones for sale, would you feel Walmart was guilty for having them?

11 Daniel 05.18.12 at 10:16 am

How exactly is what the kid even said “racist”? He didn’t utter a racial slur, he just simply said that all black people should leave the store immediately, probably in an attempt just to annoy the heck out of them because he knows that’s exactly what it was going to do. If some young, 16 year old black kid got on the megaphone and announced that all white should leave the store immediately, I would have laughed my head off. I think that what this story is really about is the fact that there are certain groups of people that feel they are more entitled to cry and whine over silly things than others are.

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