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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A two-year-old wrongful firing lawsuit against convenience store giant 7-Eleven Inc. ended in the chain?s favor.
An eight-member jury ruled Wednesday that the Dallas-based outfit did not act wrongfully when in July 2000 it fired an employee who two weeks earlier had foiled an armed robbery.
As a result, Antonio V. Feliciano, 29, will not receive any of the $105,000 he sought for compensatory damages, the Maryland Herald-Mail reported.
The case began July 14, 2000, when a woman entered a 7-Eleven store at the entrance of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center carrying a sawed-off rifle. She ordered Feliciano and a female clerk to empty their cash registers.
After giving her the money, Feliciano grabbed her gun and wrestled her to the ground, holding her there until deputies with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department arrived. Glenda Renee Hull, the woman apprehended in the attempted robbery, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to one count of carrying a firearm during a violent crime. She was sentenced to prison, where she remains.
Two weeks after the incident, Feliciano, who was hailed a hero by some local residents, was fired, in part because he violated a company policy against resisting a robber. The case captured national media attention.
After listening to two days of testimony in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg, jurors deliberated for an hour Wednesday before deciding in favor of 7-Eleven. Jurors had to decide whether the Dallas-based company wrongfully fired Feliciano.
"I think the jury did the right thing," Lloyd Scott, a 7-Eleven regional loss prevention manager, told the Herald-Mail after the verdict. "They decided that that one short moment of glory for [Feliciano]" wasn't worth the safety of other clerks.
Feliciano's attorney, Paul Taylor, said he would meet with his client soon to decide whether to appeal the decision. Taylor said the trial was an attempt to get "the icing on the cake," explaining that Feliciano already won in principle when the state Supreme Court earlier ruled that an at-will employee cannot be fired for exercising his or her right to self-defense. No monetary damages accompanied that decision.
In his closing statement, 7-Eleven's attorney, Charles Printz, said the chain did not fire Feliciano for acting in self-defense. Rather, Feliciano was terminated for several other reasons -- he violated a company policy that clerks are not to confront or resist a robber; when Feliciano grabbed the gun, the robbery was over; and Feliciano lied on his job application by not indicating he had a prior felony conviction.
In 1995, Feliciano pleaded guilty to photographing sexually explicit acts of a minor. The jurors -- five men and three women -- did not learn the nature of the conviction, only that one existed.
Maintaining that Feliciano was fired for acting in self-defense, Taylor in his closing argument said his client had no time to consider the company?s policy when he grabbed the gun.
"He wasn't trying to save a Big Gulp. He was trying to save his life," Taylor said. "He did every one of us in here a favor, including 7-Eleven. He got an armed robber off the streets."