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Man sues Wal-Mart over 'all black people leave' announcement

A black man who says he suffered emotional distress when he heard a hijacked public address announcement at a Wal-Mart store in New Jersey telling all blacks to leave has filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages from the company.

Donnell Battie says Wal-Mart was negligent, careless and reckless and showed deliberate indifference by failing to properly control access to the P.A. system.

Battie’s lawsuit was first filed in Camden County Superior Court in March. It was moved this week to U.S. District Court in Camden, the New Jersey Law Journal reported Tuesday.


The lawsuit stems from a March 14, 2010, incident at a Wal-Mart in the community of Turnersville in Washington Township, N.J. Shortly before 5 p.m., someone commandeered the store’s public address system and announced: “Attention Wal-Mart customers: All black people leave the store now.”

A store manager quickly went on the intercom system and apologized for the remark, and police were summoned, according to media reports at the time. A 16-year-old was later arrested on harassment and bias intimidation charges.

Battie says he was in the store and contends the announcement led to depression, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep and appetite, paranoia, anti-social tendencies and loss of enjoyment in activities.

Battie's attorney, John Klamo, says Battie had already been getting professional help for previous traumatic incidents.

"Mr. Battie is an individual who has been under care of a doctor for various disabilities dealing with his psychological makeup," Klamo told the Law Journal. He's in Wal-Mart and something of this nature presents its ugly head and it brings up past situations in his life that affected him."

Archive video: Police investigate alleged store P.A. slur

Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but told msnbc.com:

“We were appalled by this incident and are amazed that anyone could be so backward and mean-spirited in this day and age. We are sorry it happened and apologized at the time to any of our customers and associates who heard it. We updated our intercom system in this store to prevent this from happening in the future.”

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