A second man has filed suit against Kmart and three former employees, saying he suffered injuries after their negligence led to an altercation two years ago in front of the now-closed Juneau store.
Darrel Vandergriff was tried on a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from the March 1, 2002, incident, as was Stephen McKinney, who filed a similar suit last summer, claiming he was injured after coming to the aid of a stranger he believed was being assaulted.
A jury found McKinney innocent. In January, prosecutors dismissed the charge against Vandergriff.
Both lawsuits group Kmart and Frank Brian Rowcroft, a former loss-prevention supervisor at the store, as co-defendants. In November, a jury found Rowcroft guilty of stealing nearly $100,000 in cash, checks and credit card receipts from the store on March 31, 2002. In February, he was ordered to serve 2 1/2 years in prison and pay full restitution for the loss.
McKinney and Vandergriff are seeking damages from Kmart, a Michigan corporation that closed its Alaska stores about a year after the incident. They also named Rowcroft, Juneau loss-prevention employee Chad McMullen and Kmart's Anchorage-based Alaska loss-prevention supervisor, Clay Sellers, in their lawsuits.
Kmart has filed a motion seeking to be dismissed as a defendant in the McKinney case. It has not yet responded to the Vandergriff case, which was filed Friday in Juneau Superior Court by Juneau attorney John M. Rice. The two Juneau defendants in the McKinney case have filed motions asking for a jury trial.
Neither lawsuit seeks a specific amount, but both ask for actual damages and punitive damages to be proven at trial.
A jury originally found Vandergriff guilty of assault stemming from the incident, but the verdict was overturned by Juneau District Judge Peter B. Froehlich, who determined there was not enough evidence to show Vandergriff assaulted Rowcroft.
Rowcroft had been arrested on the theft charge by the time Vandergriff's case went to trial. He did not testify.
Upon appeal by the state, Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ruled in November that a reasonable jury could have found Vandergriff guilty, but also ruled that Vandergriff's attorney should have been allowed to question the absence of Rowcroft as a witness. She remanded the case to Juneau District Court.
Juneau prosecutors dismissed the case against Vandergriff Jan. 16. Because the case was dismissed "without prejudice" the charge could be refiled.
Tony Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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