By Lawrence J. Smith
PARKERSBURG - A Wood County woman got a blue light special she didn't bargain for following allegations she stole from the local outlet of a national retailer earlier this year.
Kmart Corporation is named as a co-defendant in a five-count lawsuit filed by Vienna resident Candy Summers. In her complaint filed in Wood Circuit Court on Aug. 18, Summers, 37, alleges that Kmart management not only held her against her will while conducting an investigation into allegations she stole from the company, but also filed criminal charges against her despite the lack on any evidence.
According to court records, Summers worked at the Kmart store in South Parkersburg on Division Street. The suit does not specify what she did for Kmart or how long she worked there except that she was working there as soon as Dec. 26.
Nevertheless, on Jan. 3, Summers alleges she was "unlawfully detained" by Roger McClosky, the store's loss prevention specialist, and two other loss prevention officers for two hours while they interrogated her about stolen property. Records are unclear as to what Summers was accused of stealing.
During the interrogation, Summers alleges that McClosky claimed to have videotape showing her stealing the property. However, when she asked to see it, McClosky refused to show it to her.
At a time not specified in court records, Summers was able to call her husband to inform him she was being detained and interrogated by McClosky. After his arrival, Summers claims that not only was her husband allowed into the room where she was being interrogated, but McClosky also threatened to restrain her if she attempted to leave the room.
Shortly thereafter, two Parkersburg police officers arrived at the store. After viewing the tape, one of the officers, Cody Miller, told Summers that "the tape showed nothing and that [she] was free to leave."
Regardless, Summers was suspended from her job immediately after she was released from McClosky's custody.
Four days later, Summers received a telephone call from Debra Havens, the store's assistant manager, informing Summers she was terminated for " 'misappropriation of company property.'" The next day when she went to pick up her final paycheck, Summers was told by Donna Lee, the human resources manager, that she was barred from again entering the store.
Unbeknownst to Summers was the fact that also on Jan. 7, Kmart filed criminal charges against her in Wood Magistrate Court regarding the alleged theft. The lack of evidence worked in her favor as records show a jury acquitted her of the charges.
In her suit, Summers names McCloskey, Joe Sherrard, the store manager, and Sears Holdings Corp., Kmart's parent company, as co-defendants. Located in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, Ill., Sears Holdings was formed in 2005 following the merger of Kmart and Sears, and oversees the operation of the 3,900 retail outlets under each store's name.
In addition to ones for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment, Summers makes claims against the defendants for negligence, outrage and defamation. Summers alleges she regularly answered questions family and friends about the charges after they were published in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
The "humiliation, embarrassment, annoyance [and] inconvenience" she suffered from the ordeal, Summers alleges, has caused difficulty between she and her husband resulting in her taking medication for anxiety attacks. She is seeking unspecified damages, court costs and attorney fees.
Summers is represented by Parkersburg attorneys C. Edward McDonough and Joe Munoz.
The case is assigned to Judge J. D. Beane.
Wood Circuit Court, Case No. 09-C-406
By Lawrence J. Smith