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Christian v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

March 7, 2001, Argued ; June 6, 2001, Decided ; June 6, 2001, Filed

No. 99-3926

Opinion

 [*864]  KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge. Plaintiffs-Appellants Lois Christian and Amber Edens appeal the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on their federal and state claims of race discrimination in a retail establishment. Christian, who is black, and Edens, who is white, went to a Wal-Mart on December 15, 1997 to buy Christmas presents. A Wal-Mart employee offered Christian repeated assistance,  [**2]  which Christian declined. Edens was offered no assistance. The employee, claiming that Christian was shoplifting, then called the police. Thereafter, Christian and Edens were escorted out of the store by police officers and were not allowed to complete their purchases. Christian and Edens brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a, and Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(G), alleging, inter alia, that they were refused their right to make a contract with Wal-Mart because of Christian's race. Because we believe the district court erred by granting Wal-Mart judgment as a matter of law, we conclude that we must REVERSE the district court's judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

On December 15, 1997, at approximately 1:45 a.m., Christian and Edens, who are close friends, entered a Wal-Mart in Jackson  [*865]  Township, Ohio to shop for Christmas presents for their respective children. Both women stayed within the toy department but they shopped separately. They were the only two shoppers in the toy department. Christian walked around with a shopping cart; Edens occasionally placed items in Christian's cart but she did not have [**3]  her own cart. According to Christian, Rose Monnot, a Wal-Mart employee, watched her as she shopped and repeatedly offered her assistance. Christian stated that she was initially offered help two or three times, although she later stated that she was offered help a total of six times throughout the hour and three quarters during which she shopped. 2 J.A. at 119, 144. Edens testified that within the first 20 minutes after their arrival at the store, Christian informed her that she had been offered help a couple of times. Edens stated that once Monnot saw that she was with Christian, Monnot started to follow her as well. 3 Edens, however, was never offered assistance.

Sometime close to 3:00 a.m., Christian put her purse on a shelf, unzipped it, and reached into her purse for a jar of vasoline. J.A. at 119. At that moment, Christian noticed Monnot [**4]  "jogging down" the aisle toward her. Monnot, upon reaching Christian, again asked if she could be of assistance, but Christian declined her help. Christian then reported the incident to Edens.

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252 F.3d 862 *; 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 11684 **; 2001 FED App. 0190P (6th Cir.)

LOIS CHRISTIAN; AMBER EDENS, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Amending Order on Denial of Rehearing En Banc August 31, 2001, Reported at: 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 19720. As Corrected September 4, 2001.

Prior History: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 98-00922. Patricia A. Gaughan, District Judge.

Disposition: REVERSED and REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

district court, prima facie case, shoplifting, purse, commercial establishment, shopper, discriminatory, intentional discrimination, discriminate, toy, three-part, similarly situated persons, matter of law, merchandise, similarly situated, prima facie, burden-shifting, decisionmaker, plaintiffs', termination, shopping, protected class, hostile, race discrimination, shopping cart, customer, deprived, unzipped, zipper, cart

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, General Overview, Jury Trials, Jurors, Misconduct, Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Public Contracts, Scope & Definitions, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Contractual Relations & Housing, Labor & Employment Law, Enforcement, Equal Rights Under the Law (sec. 1981), Private Discrimination, Proof of Discrimination, Protected Classes, Public Discrimination, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burdens of Production, Ultimate Burden of Persuasion, Racial Discrimination, Evidence, Employee Burdens of Proof