A federal jury yesterday awarded $51,000 in damages to a former manicurist at Lord & Taylor Department store, who was arrested for shoplifting a blouse she said she was actually trying to return.
The woman, Adelaide Pegorelli Lima, 44, of 7006 Farragut St., Hyattsville, was arrested on Nov. 3, 1978, after a store security guard found the blouse in her purse. Lima claimed she had purchased the blouse a week earlier in the store, and was considering whether to exchange it when whe was arrested.
At the time of her arrest, she was employed in the store's beauty shop as a sculptured nail specialist. She was promptly fired from that job and a criminal case against her is still pending.
Lima claimed store detectives bruised and forced her to strip after the arrest, and called her a "liar" and a "thief." The jury awarded her $17,000 in compensatory damages for lost wages and medical bills, and ordered the store to pay her an additional $34,000 in punitive damages.
She testified she had the blouse in her purse when she took two other blouses off a rack and went into the fitting room with them. She said a Lord & Taylor store detective spied on her in the fitting room.
The store detective, who was herself later found to have a criminal record for petty larceny and prostitution, said she saw Lima remove tags from the blouse, stow the tags in some slacks and put the blouse in her purse.
Lima said her arm was bruised by the detective who pulled her to an interrogation room. There, she said, the detective who arrested her told her she could not telephone anyone and that she would "go to jail with all the other prostitutes and pimps, where I belonged."
She was taken to a police precinct station house and booked, and was released later that day. Her attorney, Peter Messitte, said Lima returned home "frightened, shocked, humiliated, aggravated and emotionally distressed at the events of the day."
The government later charged her with petty larceny, but a D.C. Superior Court judge in the criminal case threw out the charge because, he said, her right to privacy was violated when the detective spied into the fitting room. The government is appealing that ruling in the criminal case.