Mortgage Daily

Published On: December 6, 2004
Robinson Vs Neiman Marcus

Shoplifting accusations cost store $2.6 million

December 6, 2004

By PATRICK CROWLEY

The owner of a south Florida mortgage school has won a $2.6 million jury verdict over a seven-year old shoplifting dispute with racial overtones.Seven years ago, Carl Robinson Jr., the owner of Graystone Mortgage Business School in Fort Lauderdale, was accused of stealing a pair of $80 Cole Haan shoes from a Last Call Outlet store in Broward County operated by The Neiman Marcus Group.

Robinson, who is an African-American, denied the theft and filed a suit claiming he was racially profiled and unnecessarily accused.

A Broward County Jury agreed after a recent civil trial, awarding Robinson $2.6 million and finding the store negligent for failing to adequately train employees and falsely imprisoning Robinson, court records show.

Robinson could not be reached to comment and his lawyer did not returned repeated calls to comment.

In a statement, Neiman Marcus lawyer Tony Bangs said the company was “surprised and disappointed in the verdict.”

“The company has already expressed its regret to Mr. Robinson for any inconvenience he may have experienced as a result of our security procedures,” Bangs said in an E-mailed statement to MortgageDaily.com. “Please rest assured that Mr. Robinson was treated respectfully and courteously while in our store and the incident was resolved as quickly as possible under the circumstances.”

Neiman Marcus has not said if it will appeal the verdict.

Even seven years later, the events of the day differ widely between the parties.

Robinson testified that he wore shoes that were recently shined at the store that day.

While browsing he was approached by security guards who accused him of putting on a new pair of shoes and discarding an older pair he wore into the store. Robinson claimed he was detained for about an hour and then forced to leave the store in just his socks.

Neiman Marcus has a different recollection of the events of Jan. 13, 1998.

“The incident forming the basis of the suit occurred almost seven years ago when…Carl Robinson was questioned by Loss Prevention (security) personnel after he left the store wearing a pair of shoes still bearing the store’s price sticker,” Bangs said. “After a brief discussion, Mr. Robinson departed without further delay.”

Bangs also said Robinson was only detained for a “brief” time. But Bangs did not return phone calls to comment further.

Bangs also disputed comments Robinson has made to reporters about the racial aspects of the case and vigorously denied that Neiman Marcus discriminated against him because of the color of his skin.

“Any allegations made by the plaintiff that you may have read in news articles relating to this suit are completely unfounded,” Bangs said. “The company does not, under any circumstances, tolerate discrimination in the treatment of its customers or employees.

“We believe that appropriate procedures were followed throughout this incident,” he said. “We will look for ways to improve our policies and practices in this very important area of our business.”


Patrick Crowley is a political reporter and columnist and former business writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer. Email Patrick at: pcrowley@enquirer.com

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