A WA woman who unsuccessfully sued Coles and a security company, claiming she was falsely imprisoned and the victim of an assault and battery, gave “bizarre” evidence during the hearing, a judge has said.
The woman took the supermarket giant and a security company that operated in a Perth shopping centre to court following two alleged incidents in 2020 and 2021.
In both incidents, the woman — who claims to hold three law degrees and a PhD — claims she was falsely accused of stealing a newspaper which she said she had purchased from a nearby newsagency.
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She claimed the impact of the incidents had “significant physical and mental consequences to her”.
“These included her loss of liberty, dignity, reputation, the possible danger to her life, embarrassment, and humiliation,” District Court Judge Linda Black said in her judgment earlier this month.
In the first incident in March 2020, the woman went to the Coles in Wanneroo despite living on the other side of the city, about an hour away, in Baldivis.
She said before going into Coles, she bought a newspaper from a newsagency and had it in her trolley as she entered the supermarket where she selected some bread and ham.
As she was paying for those items at a checkout, she said a staff member told her she could not leave until she paid for the newspaper — to which she replied she had bought it from the newsagency.
The woman, who said she had previously been accused of stealing by Coles, then claimed another employee arrived at the checkout and said she was calling police.
At the same time, the woman claims other people were blocking the exit so she could not leave.
She said a security guard then arrived and tried to do a bag check but she refused.
She claims the security guard then “shaped up to her” and got behind the trolley, and she was concerned about what he was going to do because he was being “aggressive”.
At the same time, the woman said she needed to use the bathroom — but didn’t tell the security guard.
But, noticing the security guard was turned away and the three employees were no longer blocking the exit, she tried to leave.
As she pushed the trolley forward, she claimed one of the security guards grabbed the trolley and pushed it to the right, causing her to lose her footing and fall back against the edge of the counter. She did not fall to the floor.
She said she was scared and, at some point, had wet herself.
She was later arrested by police on suspicion of stealing but was released.
The woman was banned from attending the store for 12 months.
She claimed she was traumatised from the event but, despite that and the ban, she attended the store both during the ban and again on the first day following the end of the ban.
In the second alleged incident, in May 2021, the woman said she returned to the store and, in a similar scenario to the first incident, purchased a newspaper from a newsagency and placed it in her trolley before going to Coles.
She said purchased $11 worth of items and, as she went to leave, she claims three Coles employees were blocking her exit.
She said one employee questioned her about not paying for the newspaper, saying: “I’m informed that you haven’t paid for the paper before”, to which she said she replied: “Well, you have been misinformed.”
The woman said she then asked another employee to go with her to the newsagency to verify she had purchased the newspaper there. The Coles employee complied and confirmed the purchase.
During the hearing, several witnesses were called including Coles staff and the two security guards who said at no stage did the woman fall.
A Coles employee also said she had checked the floor and found no urine that needed to be cleaned up, and said no staff member prevented the woman from leaving the store.
Black said the woman was not a credible witness: “She is neither honest nor reliable. Her account was inconsistent.”
Black said despite there being body camera footage of the first incident, the woman continued to dispute its contents and “held firm her clearly mistaken (or dishonest) recollection”.
“This aspect of her evidence was truly bizarre,” she said.
“The fact that the plaintiff asserted she suffered significant physical and mental consequences from what happened, according to her, on the first occasion is utterly irreconcilable with her decision to continue to go to the Coles supermarket in question, including during a period she was banned from doing so.”
Black also found the woman did not appear injured or distressed in any way in the body camera vision and, on the evidence, did not wet herself.
“By contrast she appears confident, robust, keen to lecture others on the law and deriving pleasure from the circumstances in which she had an opportunity to assert her rights,” the judge said.
The judge rejected the woman’s claims she had wet herself and that the security guard had pushed the trolley towards her.
“Although I do not need to, I find on the evidence that the plaintiff deliberately pushed the trolley at (the security guard),” Black said.
The court also heard the woman had previously sued a number of people “giving her the confidence and capacity” to represent herself in court.
The woman’s claims were dismissed.
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