LaShawna Goodman went to a local Walmart store in Opelika, Alabama, to do some last minute holiday shopping. She brought along her two young daughters and a telephone she had purchased earlier at Walmart to exchange. She presented the telephone and receipt to a Walmart employee, who took the telephone. Unable to find another telephone she wanted, Goodman retrieved the previously purchased telephone from the employee, bought another item, and left. Outside, Goodman was stopped by Walmart security personnel and was accused of stealing the phone. Goodman offered to show the Walmart employees the original receipt, but the Walmart employees detained her and called the police. Goodman was handcuffed in front of her children. Walmart filed criminal charges against Goodman.
At the criminal trial, Goodman was acquitted of all charges. Goodman then filed a civil lawsuit against Walmart Stores, Inc., to recover damages for falsely accusing her of stealing the telephone and false imprisonment. Walmart asserted the defense that it was within its rights to have detained Goodman as it did and to have prosecuted her based on its investigation. Walmart asserted that the merchant protection statute protected its actions in this case. Was Walmart’s conduct ethical? Did Walmart act responsibly by bringing criminal charges against Goodman? Did Walmart present sufficient evidence to prove that it should be protected by the merchant protection statute? Walmart Stores, Inc. v. Goodman, 789 So. 2d 166, 2000 Ala. Lexis 548 (Supreme Court of Alabama, 2000)