Man sues after arrest for taking too many free samples

April 16, 2013 at 3:56 PM
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ST. PAUL, Minn., April 16 (UPI) -- A Minnesota retiree who was arrested on a charge of taking too many free samples from a supermarket has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Erwin Lingitz, 68, of Gem Lake named the supermarket chain Supervalu Inc., Ramsey County and its sheriff's department, three deputies and the company that employed security guards at the Cub Foods supermarket in White Bear as defendants, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday.

Lingitz says the 2010 arrest violated his civil rights. In its response to the lawsuit, Supervalu Inc. suggests Lingitz was a serial offender with a habit of helping himself lavishly to trays of free cookies put out for children. On the day of his arrest, he was found to have almost a pound of beef stick and more than half a pound of summer sausage in his pockets.

The chain also says it is not responsible for Lingitz's arrest since the White Bear store is owned by a franchisee.

Robyn Johnson, the Supervalu lawyer, said Steve Martin, a weekend manager at the store, had seen Lingitz violating "societal norms" on free samples on many occasions.

"On these occasions, Mr. Martin observed plaintiff filling plastic produce bags with the samples or with 10-20 cookies from the kids' cookie club tray, which specifically limits the offer to one free cookie per child," the lawyer said.

In his lawsuit, Lingitz said he had gone into the store to fill a prescription, had helped himself to the samples and had been told he could take some for his wife, who was waiting for him in the car.

A judge said in 2011 the charges against Lingitz would be dropped if he avoided further legal trouble for a year. The case was dismissed in 2012.

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