A jury in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has awarded approximately $525,000 to a die-hard coupon clipper who was arrested and then acquitted of charges that she falsely obtained steep discounts on household items and Barbie dolls at a J.C. Penney store.
In an unusual case of malicious prosecution, a jury awarded the money to Melanie Pianelli of Coral Springs, Fla., finding that she was the victim of an overzealous loss protection manager.
Well, luckily for JCP, the book coupon is now only $5.00. I have heard of customers doing this from a gal in the catalog department. They buy them and often don't even take them. They just want the coupons. Especially when they were the 10.00 ones. Then you could come off 5.00 ahead, but no longer.
If a cashier was giving her free shipping on merchandise, or a merchandise line, that that JCP store did NOT carry, then she was cheating the company. However, if it was merchandise that we carried and it was on sale and we were out of it, then it was ligit to do that as an SR order. Many "coupons" do not count toward catalog only merchandise.
I find it AMAZING that she had so many catalog orders on merchandise that the store was OUT of???!!!
JCP coupons say now limit of one, etc., in hopes of preventing just this thing.
She received a ridiculous amount of money. Let this be a lesson to LPO's to check out things before calling in the law.
What's unusual about Pianelli's case is the size of the award. Usually malicious prosecution cases against retail stores are settled for $10,000 to $25,000, said Andrew Hall, a longtime Miami litigator who was not involved in the case.
"The fact that a jury awarded her $500,000 shows that J.C. Penney put this woman through a great deal," Hall said.
Pianelli, 27 at the time of her June 2000 arrest by Coral Springs police, was accused of stealing more than $4,000 from the J.C. Penney in the Coral Square Mall. According to the J.C. Penney loss prevention manager, Pianelli conspired with one of the store cashiers to obtain illegal discounts on merchandise from January to February 2000.
The manager, Patrick Borden, claimed that the cashier, Leticia Walsh, was improperly waiving shipping and handling fees for items Pianelli had bought from the store catalog and giving her the store sales price when it was lower than those listed in the catalog. Borden started investigating Pianelli after he noticed that more than 50 credits had been made to her J.C. Penney account within a single month. As a result, Pianelli was able to acquire household items and dolls for her daughters at up to 90 percent off the original price. Through conscientious coupon clipping, Pianelli was legitimately buying $60 Barbie dolls for $6.99, said one of her civil attorneys, Mark D. Feinstein, a partner at Feinstein & Sorota in North Miami Beach. Feinstein's co-counsel was Matthew E. Haynes, a partner with Chamblee Johnson & Haynes in West Palm Beach.
Pianelli, whose husband is a traffic officer with the Broward sheriff's office, claimed she had done nothing wrong. An admitted compulsive shopper who inherited her mother's frugality, Pianelli claimed that all her discounts were legal.