Home Depot worker 'must think all Asian people look the same,' says lawsuit of man accused of theft

By Nicholas Malfitano | Sep 12, 2018

Home Depot  

PHILADELPHIA – A case of mistaken identity allegedly led to an Asian plaintiff being assaulted, falsely detained and arrested during his visit to a Home Depot, though counsel for the major hardware store denies such conduct took place.

Thanh-Trung Tran of Philadelphia filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on July 27 versus Home Depot, Inc. (doing business as “Home Depot”) and Bill Dalton, both also of Philadelphia.

“On June 1, 2017, plaintiff was lawfully present inside Home Depot at 4640 Roosevelt Boulevard, in Philadelphia. Plaintiff was in Home Depot to purchase door locks and went to the customer service counter to ask questions about the door locks. While at the customer service counter, plaintiff was attacked by defendant Dalton. Defendant Dalton, without provocation, rushed at plaintiff and tacked plaintiff’s person, slamming him to the cement floor,” the lawsuit reads.

Unaware of what was happening, Tran attempted to get up but was physically restrained by Dalton, injuring the plaintiff’s knee in the process, he says. 

Tran was then allegedly accused of stealing door locks by Dalton – meanwhile, Tran claimed he previously purchased the door locks and merely wanted to return them. However, Dalton claimed Tran had been in the store days before and returned items at customer service for which he didn’t pay, an accusation that Tran vehemently denied, the suit says.

When Tran didn’t consent to a search of his person, Dalton allegedly applied a full nelson and held the plaintiff until police officers arrived to the scene. Another Home Depot employee was also overheard telling Dalton that the plaintiff was not the individual in question who attempted to return stolen merchandise, but Dalton allegedly continued his “reckless assault, restraint, imprisonment and prosecution of plaintiff.”

“Defendant Dalton must think all Asian people look the same – blatant racism is per se reckless and intentional conduct. The only expected outcome of defendant Dalton’s actions, that is assaulting someone without provocation, is the definition of reckless behavior that has a high degree or risk of harm. The only expected outcome is physical injury,” the suit reads.

“During the criminal matter, plaintiff, through counsel, requested surveillance videos from the day in question. Defendant Home Depot refused to turn over the video to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. All criminal prosecution was dismissed. At no time did any independent magistrate or judge conclude that probable cause for the arrest was present in this case. In fact, no testimony was ever taken in criminal court in regard to the instant matter. No reasonable, person, police officer or judicial authority would ever conclude based on the facts alleged in the instant matter that plaintiff had committed any crime against the Commonwealth. Therefore, probable cause was not present in this matter.”

Defense counsel filed an answer on Aug. 10, seeking the following: The striking of all allegations of recklessness, demands for punitive damages in the ad damnum clauses, plaintiff’s allegations contained in Paragraph 41, 44 through 48 and the striking of counts for false arrest/false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and negligent hiring and retention, all with prejudice.

For counts of false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, vicarious liability and negligent hiring and retention, the plaintiff was seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs, delay damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, costs and such other and further relief as appears reasonable and just, in addition to a trial by jury in this matter.

The plaintiff is represented by Brian J. Zeiger of Levin & Zeiger, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Nicholas M. Donzuso of Dilworth Paxson, in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180600146

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas The Home Depot

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