Man files lawsuit after he's accused of 'stealing' free samples at Cub

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Can you accuse someone of thievery if the items taken are free?

A Ramsey County man doesn't think so and is now seeking damages after he claims he was roughed up for taking a large amount of free samples from a grocery store display table.

Retiree Erwin Lingitz of Gem Lake has filed a federal lawsuit against Supervalu, a Cub Foods security guard, three Ramsey County sheriff's deputies and others after an incident at a White Bear Lake Township grocery store that left Lingitz with two black eyes, the Pioneer Press reports.

In April 2010, Lingitz and his wife stopped at Cub Foods to pick up a prescription.

Lingitz, then 65, stopped at a table offering free samples of lunchmeat and claims Cub's personnel gave him additional samples to take outside to his wife, who was waiting in the car, according the the lawsuit.

Lingitz filled two produce bags with more than a pound of deli meat samples and was approached by a security guard that accused Lingitz of shoplifting.

A Supervalu spokeswoman said Lingitz was being uncooperative and it took three officers to take him into custody.

Before being booked into jail, photos taken at the hospital show Lingitz with two blacks eyes, a laceration across the bridge of his nose and cuts and bruises.

The Star Tribune says the suit seeks a minimum of $375,000 in damages stemming from civil rights violations, use of excessive force and negligence.

As for the free samples, Supervalu claims Lingitz violated "societal norms and common customer understanding regarding free sample practices."

Misdemeanor charges filed by the Maplewood city attorney's office following the incident were dismissed last year.

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