Attorney challenges witness to knock him down during false imprisonment trial

David Yates Aug. 12, 2009, 10:22am

Knocking a plaintiff's attorney to the ground may seem like a fantasy to some, but one Beaumont lawyer recently gave a witness a chance to make it a reality.

During a trial on Aug. 11, J. Trenton Bond dared a witness to step off the stand and try to knock him down.

The spectacle occurred during a trial over a man who claims he was thrown to the ground and falsely imprisoned by a Market Basket employee.

The trial settled the follwing day for an undisclosed amount.

Bond, an attorney with Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, was questioning the grocery store employee and attempted to recreate the incident by asking the witness to strike him.

"I'm a big boy � I can take it if he knocks me down," Bond said to the judge after asking the witness to lower his shoulder and plow into his chest.

While the witness appeared visibly dumbfounded, defense attorney Ray Jeffrey shouted out a stunned objection. "In 25 years of practicing law, I've never seen a (lawyer) ask a witness to slam himself into him."

The case's presiding judge, Judge Milton Shuffield, sustained Jeffrey's objection. Five minutes later, he called a recess and asked the attorneys to join him in his chambers for a private chat.

The trial of Carlton Ford vs. Market Basket began Monday in Judge Shuffield's 136th District Court, and revolves around Ford, who claims he was "thrown to the ground and falsely imprisoned" by Market Basket employee Marc Gaudet.

Testimony and court record shows that on March 21, 2007, Ford was leaving a Market Basket store in Port Neches when he was confronted by Gaudet.

Gaudet, who stands at 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs around 260 pounds, testified that Market Basket relies on him to coral suspected shoplifters.

According to his testimony, Gaudet confronted Ford in the parking lot and asked him what happened to a pair of gloves Ford had been carrying around in the store. Ford, an older black man, protested his innocence and plowed into Gaudet.

Gaudet said he was forced to raise his hands in defense and Ford fell to the ground when he made contact with him.

"He collapsed like goo," Gaudet said.

In his suit, Ford says he injured his back during the incident.
Court records and testimony show that Ford was carrying around a pair of gloves but put them back before leaving the store.

Gaudet testified that he apologized to Ford after he got up off the ground and showed him where he put the gloves.

Ford was free to leave after cooperating with Gaudet.

Bond asserts that Gaudet violated company policy by confronting Ford and that Market Basket negligently failed to properly train him.

Ford filed suit against Market Basket Ltd. in the Jefferson County District Court on March 19, 2008.

In his suit Ford says that Market Basket is liable to him for damages under the legal doctrine res ipsa loquitur. The doctrine refers to a rule of evidence whereby negligence may be inferred from the mere fact that the accident happened.

Ford was asking jurors to award him damages for past and future medical expenses, pain, mental anguish and impairment.

Case No. D181-462s

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