Smith v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 19-20818 (5th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against Wal-Mart after a store employee incorrectly identified plaintiff as a shoplifting suspect in a photo lineup. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court's dismissal of her defamation claim.
The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart on the defamation claim, holding that none of plaintiff's assertions raises a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the Wal-Mart employee made her statement with actual malice. In this case, the employee could easily have been confident in her identification despite the absence of a facial piercing in the photo lineup; the record does not suggest a large discrepancy between the employee's description of the suspect and her identification of plaintiff, including the shade of her complexion; and the employee did not demonstrate malice by failing to review security footage. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's attacks on the employee's credibility.