A South Carolina jury ordered Target to pay more than $3 million to a woman it accused incorrectly of trying to pass counterfeit money.
Two years ago, Rita Cantrell tried to spend a 1974-vintage $100 bill at two different Target stores in Greenville, S.C. She was questioned at the stores and turned away. What made the case actionable happened next: A Target loss prevention employee sent an e-mail to 31 other North Carolina retailers and law enforcement agencies, warning them to be on the lookout for Cantrell. The e-mail included Cantrell's information and photo, and told other stores that she was passing counterfeit bills and shoplifting.
Ironically, Cantrell worked at Belk's, a department store -- in loss prevention. First, the email showed up at her place of work. Then the Secret Service paid Cantrell a visit at Belk's, looked at the Ben Franklin in question, and pronounced it old, but genuine.
Cantrell sued for defamation and negligence, and a Greenville jury in U.S. District Court awarded her $100,000 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
"Every aspect of Rita's life was harmed by Target," said Bozzie Boggs, one of Cantrell's attorneys.
Target will appeal, claiming that Cantrell's $200 medical bill should not have resulted in $100,000 in actual damages, which then formed the basis for the $3 million judgment.