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Jury orders store to pay $1 million to black woman for racial complaint

December 11, 1997

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A federal jury has awarded more than $1 million to a black woman who said a department store security guard stopped and checked her and denied her a free gift because of her race.

An all-white jury on Wednesday decided to award $56,000 in actual damages and $1.1 million in punitive damages to Paula Hampton, a 37-year-old human resources manager.

The lawsuit grew out of a confrontation Ms. Hampton and her niece had with a security guard at Dillard’s Overland Park store in April 1996.

The guard accused Ms. Hampton’s 24-year-old niece, Demetria Cooper, of shoplifting while the two women were shopping with their three children and another child.

The store found no evidence of theft. The women also claimed they were supposed to have received, but did not, some free perfume after making a purchase.

Elaine Drodge Koch, a Dillard’s attorney, said the case was simply one of suspected shoplifting and not racial discrimination.

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