Falsely accused of shoplifting, Tracy couple sues CVS after ordeal sends woman to ER

Falsely accused of shoplifting, Tracy couple sues CVS after ordeal sends woman to ER


STOCKTON — A Tracy couple has filed suit against a national pharmacy chain, claiming employees at one of its stores in Tracy falsely accused the husband of shoplifting, then refused to fill the wife’s prescriptions for pneumonia and asthma medications. Later that same day, the wife — unable to breathe — was rushed to a hospital emergency room.

Lorina Fermaint, 34, a nurse raising four children with husband Vincent Mares, went to her doctor the morning of June 10 after suffering from a high fever for several days. Upon reviewing her X-rays, Fermaint’s doctor told her she had pneumonia. Combined with her asthma, she was having serious trouble breathing.

The doctor gave her prescriptions for medicines to treat both the pneumonia and the asthma, so Fermaint, being driven by her husband, went to the CVS pharmacy on West 11th Street in Tracy where she has been filling prescriptions since she was 15 years old.

She dropped off the prescriptions at the pharmacy counter and was told it would be about a 45-minute wait. Too weak to wait inside the store, she told her husband: “I don’t have the energy, so let’s just go wait in the car. As soon as we got into the car, I got a phone call from CVS. They told me the man I was with stole something from the store and they would not fill my prescriptions.”

Unsure what to do next, Fermaint surprised Mares by asking him if he had taken anything from the store. Perplexed by the question, Mares — who works as a plumber — said “of course not.”

So the couple went back into the CVS where they were met by a cashier who called two managers to the front of the store.

At that time, the managers explained that loss prevention staff had reviewed surveillance tapes and identified Mares as having taken merchandise from the store, Fermaint said.

Furthermore, the managers told Fermaint they wouldn’t release anything to her — not her medications even though she was plainly suffering, and not the prescriptions the doctor had written.

“They didn’t call the cops on us, which is really bizarre, especially if they have camera footage of it,” Fermaint said.

So Fermaint and Mares drove straight to the Tracy Police Department themselves. Fermaint said the officer they spoke with was confused by the pharmacy’s actions and said they can’t withhold medication.

The officer called the store, spoke to another manager who told him that Mares did not steal anything, but they now couldn’t release Fermaint’s medications until the next day because she had been “red tagged.”

That night at home without her medications, Fermaint suffered a severe asthma attack.

“It literally feels like you’re drowning and you can’t breathe at all,” she recalled. She spent hours in the hospital emergency room where she received stronger medications before being discharged with more prescriptions to fill at the same CVS pharmacy.

When she went in the next day, she said, “The lady behind the counter apologized to me. The managers told me about the red flag on my account, and another manager apologized saying (Mares) just fit the description of someone who shoplifted at another store. They tried to offer a $20 gift card to Target.”

The personal injury lawsuit, filed as in category of the statute of limitation accidents last Monday in San Joaquin County Superior Court by Tracy attorney Richard Hyppa on behalf of the couple against Rhode Island-based CVS Pharmacy Inc., seeks unspecified damages for personal injury and breach of duty and good faith.

“It’s a pretty unusual set of circumstances. These people did nothing wrong, yet the CVS employees took it upon themselves to determine that he had been shoplifting,” Hyppa said.

“It’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t happen to anybody,” he said.

A spokesman for CVS was not able to immediately address the situation or the lawsuit.

“We haven’t been served with this suit. Looks like it was just filed (last Monday). We will investigate the allegations therein,” Mike DeAngelis, senior director of corporate communications for CVS, responded by email to a request for comment.

Fermaint said she and her husband pursued a lawsuit for a variety of reasons. She described Mares as “a very hard worker and a family man who is of Latino descent and has tattoos on his body. To flat out lie about him really made me question their motives and what was behind that. Was he profiled?”

She expressed concern for others who might have experienced similar treatment. “If they can do this to me, they can do it to anybody. I know my rights and I know what they were doing is illegal and I wasn’t just going to let it go. They never apologized, they never said what they did was wrong. They just continued to justify their actions.”

“It humiliated us, in front of the store, in front of customers and other employees, and caused me to have severe anxiety and asthma because they refused to give me all of my breathing medications,” Fermaint said.

The first scheduled court hearing has been set for a case management conference at 8:30 a.m. June 18 before Judge Michael Mulvihill in Department 10C.

Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or jgoldeen@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeGoldeen.

One Response

  1. Been “licensed” home builder for decades. Built millions of dollars worth of homes. NEVER been sued. NEVER sued anyone or any company but, I say……in this situation,.SUE THEIR A$$ES! This situation is ridiculous!

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