SHE’S THE LAW: Black Shoppers v. Barneys Lawsuit Explained

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Legal Breakdowns of the hottest Entertainment and Celebrity Drama

Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips v. Barneys New York and the New York City Police Department

19-year-old college student, Trayon Christian was recently arrested leaving luxury department store, Barney’s in Manhattan, after purchasing a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt. It’s being reported that after the NYC College of Technology freshman made his purchase, he was stopped by undercover officers who were allegedly called by a Barneys sales clerk who believed the transaction was fraudulent.

Additionally, Kayla Phillips has come forth to tell her story involving a similar incident with Barneys when she purchased a $2500 Celine bag. It appears Kayla was also stopped by cops for questioning after making the purchase with her debit card and leaving the store.

According to the New York Post, Christian is suing both Barneys New York and the NYPD for unspecified damages as a result of “great physical and mental distress and humiliation.” Kayla is said to be suing the same luxury store and NYPD for an alleged $5 million dollars tentatively based upon the same claims.

Since this story broke, Barneys has released a statement saying that the sales clerk had nothing to do with the stopping and detaining of Christian:

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What Does This Mean?:

Within the State of New York, emotional and physical distress is stressed caused by intentional, reckless or negligence conduct; however, in cases of negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED), the threshold of injury is higher than in cases of intentional/reckless infliction of emotional distress (IIED).

Intentional Infliction of Emotion Distress occurs when a person, through extreme or outrageous behavior intentionally (or recklessly) causes severe emotional distress, mental trauma and/or bodily harm to another. There need not be bodily harm to establish this claim. A plaintiff may recover damages for both the emotional harm, as well as physical harm that results from the conduct.

According to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, as soon as Christian left Barneys, undercover officers grabbed him and asked “how a young Black man such as himself could afford to purchase such an expensive belt”. It is also reported within the suit that the officers took Christian to the local precinct, where he showed police his identification, as well as his debit card and the receipt for the belt. Police still believed Christian’s identification was fake, and eventually called his bank, which verified it was his, according to the complaint. Christian, who has no prior arrests, was then released.

How Does This Affect You? :

Christian and Phillips’ attorneys are more than likely arguing that the intentional and reckless conduct of both the sales person and undercover police officers caused them to be unlawfully detained, which subsequently caused severe distress to the young lady and young student. As an upstanding citizen and college student who has no criminal record, the fact that Christian was allegedly handcuffed and led to the police station for questioning is utterly ridiculous.

Both Christian and Phillips had proper identification and a receipt and had no prior arrests. I agree with Christian’s attorney that he was stopped outside of Barneys because he was a young Black man holding a bag from a store that apparently young Black males do not possess the means or desire to spend their hard earned money.

I sympathize with both parties and I urge every young person to know your rights. You have a right to not be unlawfully detained. If you are ever approached by law enforcement officers, it is important to be respectful, yet know and understand your rights. According to CivilFreedoms.org, here are some tips when dealing with law enforcement agents:

Know Your Rights When Contacted by a Law Enforcement Officer

• Understand that providing information to the FBI or any law enforcement officer, absent a subpoena, is strictly voluntary. You are not obligated under law to answer any questions from law enforcement officers other than providing them with an official identification card.

• You may choose to have an attorney accompany or represent you for any interview or questioning. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney regarding the risks and benefits of being interviewed by law enforcement agents in your specific case. CAIR may provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney

• If FBI agents show up at your home or workplace and do not have a search or arrest warrant, you have no obligation to let them in.

• If they do have an arrest or search warrant, you can still exercise your right to remain silent. Comply with all directives and do not physically resist an officer. Be polite and respectful at all times. You also have the right to an attorney.

• If an agent or officer says they have some questions for you, you have the right to not speak to them and/or you may tell the agents or officers that you will have your attorney contact them if they wish to speak to you. Again, CAIR can provide legal assistance, or can refer you to an attorney.

• Note that anything you say to an agent or officer can be used against you in a court of law and that lying to an agent or officer is a criminal offense.

• Should you decide to speak to agents alone despite the risks, note that you may set the conditions of the interview, including choosing when and where the interview is to take place, having a third party present such as a family member or community leader, deciding which questions to answer, and refusing to sign any documents. You may cancel the interview at any time. (Ask the agent if you may record the interview.)

• Be sure to get the names, agencies, badge numbers, and business cards of all agents or officers.

• Contact your attorney to report the interview/incident and to discuss what may happen next. If you feel that your civil rights were violated, you may also file a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.

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