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Jury rejects lawyer’s claims against jewelry store

A federal jury in Baltimore has rejected a lawyer’s defamation and false imprisonment claims against a jewelry store chain arising from her unpleasant experience at the Perryville Outlet Center in June 2005.

Carolyn Henderson had sought more than $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages. After a three-day trial last week in U.S. District Court before Judge Benson E. Legg, the jury returned in less than an hour Wednesday afternoon.

Henderson, a resident of downtown Baltimore and a nonpracticing member of the Pennsylvania Bar, represented herself in the litigation. She did not return messages seeking comment last week. Patricia Thornton, the Greenbelt lawyer who defended Claire’s Stores Inc. and Claire’s Boutiques Inc., the owner of the individual store, declined to comment.

According to Henderson’s filings, she walked into the Claire’s at the Cecil County outlet mall and, after an initial complication involving the small dog she carried in her bag, attempted to purchase some 200 items of clearance jewelry.

The assistant manager at the cash register, Tiffany Whelan, asked Henderson about several jewelry holders that were missing jewelry and eventually called a mall security guard.

Henderson denied stealing anything, which the security guard accepted, but there was more trouble ahead. Whelan questioned the authenticity of Henderson driver’s license and eventually called security back to the store.

After that issue was resolved, Henderson realized she had been overcharged by more than $100 and complained. A store manager eventually arrived and Henderson received a refund and left. She had spent nearly five hours in the store.

The defense said Henderson suffered no damages and alleged that she has a history of suing for emotional distress.