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Couple's suit says they did not steal

September 14, 2000

Couple's suit says they did not steal



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


A Hagerstown couple who say they were falsely accused of shoplifting a bottle of aspirin on Christmas Eve 1999 are suing a supermarket for $400,000, according to court documents.

Eugene and Diane Simmons, of 16208 National Pike in Hagerstown, filed suit against County Market at 835 W. Hillcrest Road in Hagerstown Wednesday, alleging defamation, simple assault, false imprisonment and punitive damages.

The couple were caused to "suffer great embarrassment and ridicule in front of the customers and employees of County Market," court documents filed in Washington County Circuit Court alleged.

Hagerstown attorney James K. Reed, who represents Eugene and Diane Simmons, said the supermarket hasn't offered an apology.

"They probably would have walked away if there had been an apology," he said.

Reed said the Simmonses have never shoplifted and do not have criminal records.

Store personnel referred all questions to a store manager that they wouldn't fully identify. A message left at the store for "Tony" was not returned.

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The couple allege that they were shopping in the crowded store for last-minute Christmas supplies at 11 a.m. when Diane Simmons noticed several bottles of aspirin "lying to one side of the aisle between counters."

She bent down, picked up the bottles and placed them on the shelf, court documents said.

As they were walking away, a man reached out and grabbed Eugene Simmons' arm, according to court documents.

The man told Eugene Simmons "you are going with me" and pulled him down the aisle, court documents contend.

According to court documents, the man did not identify himself but the couple later learned he was a County Market security officer.

Court documents allege the security officer again grabbed Eugene Simmons and shoved him into a grocery cart that his wife was pushing, causing an injury to his leg.

Eugene Simmons also alleged the security officer twisted his arm and his glasses fell off.

The security officer contacted a store manager and told him he believed Eugene Simmons had shoplifted the aspirin and had it in his pocket.

"He's crazy, I don't have anything in my pocket, let's go to your office so you can see for yourself. You can search me to prove it," said Eugene Simmons in the court papers.

After going to the manager's office, Eugene Simmons and his wife's purse were searched but no supermarket merchandise was found, court documents contend.

The police were eventually called and the couple was released.

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