A New Jersey man is suing Wal-Mart for $1 million, claiming he was traumatized by a racist public announcement made in one of the retailer’s stores.

Donnell Battie, a Winslow, N.J. resident, was in the Wal-Mart on the Black Horse Pike in Washington Township, N.J. on March 14, 2010, when a teenager allegedly got on the store’s intercom and announced: “Attention, Wal-Mart customers. All Black people must leave the store.”

Days later, a 16-year-old boy was arrested and charged with bias intimidation and harassment, according to an Associated Press report.

But Battie said the retail giant was negligent in controlling access to the intercom system and that the announcement was “reasonably likely to harass or intimidate Black people.”

He further alleges in his complaint that he has had to seek medical attention because the incident caused “severe and disabling emotional and psychological harm, resulting in depression, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, paranoia, anti-social tendencies and loss of enjoyment in life activities.”

John Klamo, Battie’s lawyer, told the Cherry Hill, N.J. Courier-Post that the middle-aged Black man has had previous incidents of discrimination that have, cumulatively, affected his mental health.

“Prior to this, he was receiving medical care for various issues related to being discriminated against,” said Klamo, who offered no details. “Here, he was in a public place and again prejudice rears its ugly head.”

Since the incident Wal-Mart has “updated intercom system in the store to prevent this from happening in the future,” Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter told the Courier-Post.

Battie’s suit, which was originally filed in Superior Court in March, was moved to federal court in Camden, N.J., on May 10.

 

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO