McNicholas & McNicholas Files Lawsuit Against Target Corporation for False Imprisonment and Wrongful Death
— Employee commits suicide shortly after being subjected to Target’s “Walk of Shame” policy —
McNicholas & McNicholas filed a lawsuit against Target Corporation (“Target”) on behalf of Virginia Gentles, the decedent’s mother, for intentionally inflicting severe emotional distress upon her son and former Target employee, Graham Gentles, and thereby causing him to commit suicide after Target management and security personnel arrested, restrained and subjected Mr. Gentles to the “Walk of Shame” without any basis.
The “Walk of Shame” is a Target policy intended to cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of wrongdoing. It includes being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and store customers.
The lawsuit alleges that Target Corporation, Target’s Pasadena Store Team Leader Anthony Mims and Executive Team Leader of Asset Protection Charles Godinez falsely imprisoned Mr. Gentles without a reasonable basis to believe that he had committed a felony.
The lawsuit also alleges the defendants negligently, recklessly or intentionally caused Mr. Gentles severe emotional distress, which was a substantial factor in his suicide several days following the false arrest.
“The treatment of Graham is disturbing and ultimately caused a hardworking employee to commit suicide,” said Patrick McNicholas, Partner at McNicholas & McNicholas. “Target overstepped its boundaries. Their “Walk of Shame” policy had its intended effect—to humiliate and shame—in this case, with tragic consequences.”
On July 15, 2014, 10 minutes before Mr. Gentles was scheduled to begin work, he was met by police and Target security personnel at the front entrance of the Pasadena store. At the direction of Mr. Mims and Mr. Godinez, the police forcefully grabbed Mr. Gentles, emptied his pockets, pulled his hat off, handcuffed him and then paraded him through the Target store in front of co-workers and customers. With no idea as to why he was being arrested, Mr. Gentles was forcibly detained, questioned and taken to the police department. He was never charged and was released the same day.
Ms. Gentles has never been told why her son was detained, subjected to Target’s “Walk of Shame” and arrested.
Mr. Gentles, who suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, experienced severe emotional distress following the arrest. On July 18, 2014, three days after his arrest, Mr. Gentles committed suicide.