Chelsea Partington Aug. 7, 2014, 5:33pm


NEW ORLEANS – A Baton Rouge doctor is suing Saks Fifth Avenue and two of the retailer’s employees for allegedly accusing her of shoplifting because she is of African-American descent.

Dr. Japera Levine filed suit against Saks Fifth Avenue LLC, a Saks sales associate, and a Saks security guard in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court on June 27.

Levine claims that on June 30, 2013 between noon and 2 p.m., she went shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue on Canal Street in New Orleans. Her motivation for patronizing the retailer was celebratory, having just finished a surgical procedure at her hospital of employment in Baton Rouge, the suit states. It also states that Levine had shopped at Saks' locations in other cities several times before June 30.

Levine asserts that her Saks encounter began in the shoe department, where she paid $500 to have a pair of shoes not available in the store shipped to her. Following this transaction, the shoe sales associate escorted Levine to the fragrance department on another floor where she sampled two perfumes, the suit states.

The petition states that Levine was permitted to take the two unopened fragrance bottles she had chosen back to the shoe department, where she bought three more pairs of shoes.

Having concluded her business there, Levine proceeded to intimates, where she allegedly notified the associate about the two bottles of perfume. The salesperson did not offer to hold the fragrances at the counter, says the suit.

Levine claims that the intimates associate allowed her to take the bottles with her into the changing room, where she tried on the items she had chosen. The plaintiff further asserts that when she exited the dressing room, the intimates salesperson rudely informed her that she would have to pay for the perfumes immediately.

Levine reports that she expressed incredulity, after which the presence of a security employee was brought to her attention. According to the suit, the security personnel had been following her throughout the store. Levine allegedly requested to speak with the manager, to whom she articulated frustration with being treated as a thief after spending $3,000 at that Saks location.

On July 3, 2013, the Saks store manager allegedly called Levine and did not apologize for her experience on June 30. The manager allegedly explained that it is Saks' store policy to follow customers when they are shopping. The plaintiff asserts that she saw other customers walking with items from one department to another without obstruction.

Levine states that she has suffered humiliation, embarrassment, emotional and mental distress as a result of being followed and being accused of shoplifting in a luxury retail location just because she is of African-American descent.

The defendant is accused of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The plaintiff seeks an unknown amount in damages for pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, mental distress, counseling costs, court costs and attorney's fees.

Dr. Japera Levine is represented by attorney Clara E. Toombs.

The case has been assigned to District D Judge Lloyd J. Medley.

Case no. 2014-06363.

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