Benham v. Walgreens

V. James DeSimone

Practice Area:Civil Rights

Outcome:$2.1 Million Verdict

Description:$2.1 million jury verdict on behalf of a female customer of Walgreens for false arrest and civil rights violations resulting in the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles nominating DeSimone for Trial Lawyer of the Year. On April 17, 2004, Ms. Benham went to Walgreens, located at 6th and Vermont in Los Angeles, California, to exchange diet drinks which were expired and had made her sick. Instead of honoring her request, Walgreens had its security guards take her to a back room where they intimidated and bullied Ms. Benham and her friend by repeatedly insisting they were seen, on a videotape, stealing the drinks from Walgreen's shelf. The jury found that the evidence at trial showed that security guards were lying as the video tape never showed them stealing and, in fact, Ms. Benham was completely innocent of any crime. The jury concluded that Ms. Benham was falsely arrested by Walgreens' security agent, who threatened and assaulted her while holding her in a small back room of the Walgreens. Ms. Benham testified that he made sexually explicit comments and implied that he would let her go if she gave him sexual favors. The jury found that when she insisted on her innocence and refused to comply with his unlawful demands, he made a citizens arrest and lied to the police that he observed her committing a crime. Ms. Benham testified that she was extremely traumatized by the conduct of the security guards and the jury's verdict reflects the harm which was done to her. Ms. Benham would like to use the verdict as a springboard to help others abused by those in authority. The jury's verdict concluded that security company that employed Mr. Ray, S&J Security and Investigation, failed to perform a criminal background check prior to hiring him and failed to make sure he was licensed as required by California law. Incredibly, the expert witness hired by defendants testified that the President of the California's Bureau of Security and Investigative Services informed him that loss prevention agents do not have to be licensed. The jury disbelieved this testimony and found that the law requires loss prevention agents to be licensed, which requires finger prints to be sent to the California Department of Justice and the FBI. Commenting on the decision, Ms. Benham's attorney, V. James De Simone of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP stated, "This is an important victory. Walgreen's security guard was unfit to work because he had a felony record. He not only abused Alicia Benham but he sexually assaulted a thirteen year old girl in another case while working at an Albertson's. Had the security company complied with the law, none of this would have happened." Los Angeles Jury Awards $2.1 Million in False Arrest Civil Rights Case Involving Walgreens