Montreal man sues SAQ after allegedly being assaulted by an employee

MONTREAL – Steve Merling is suing the SAQ after he was allegedly roughed up by an employee for trying to return about 100 bottles of alcohol.

The event planner told Global News his company, Eventure, offers all services from catering to music — and that includes bar service.

“When we operate a bar, we want to make sure that we have enough alcohol,” he said.

Merling said he’s never had any trouble returning unopened bottles to the SAQ.

“We always over-buy and we always return the excess,” he said.

Merling said after a recent event, he and a co-worker, Kaitlin Zwirek, went to the SAQ at Rockland Centre.

“[The manager] looked at the receipt, looked at the alcohol, then at me, the receipt and the alcohol before saying ‘I can’t help you,'” he said.
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Merling said he went back and forth with the manager before calling customer service to confirm that he was in the right.

According to the SAQ’s return policy, “The exchange or refund can be handled at the outlet of your choosing, even if the purchase was made in another sales point in Quebec.”

“Because the returned product must be able to be put on sale immediately, both the bottle and label must be in good condition.”

Merling says the manager continued to refuse, when a second employee reportedly came out from the back of the store.

“He started saying ‘you’re being disrespectful, you have no respect for alcohol. Get out of the store, you’re trying to commit fraud, shame on you,'” said Merling, who added that he was shocked and decided to snap a picture of the angry employee as proof.

“All of a sudden, he grabs my arm, twists it behind my back and pushes me up against the glass display case and really starts twisting my arm, pinching my wrist.”

Steve Merling took photos of his bruises at home after allegedly being assaulted by an SAQ employee. Steve Merling
Steve Merling took photos of his bruises at home after allegedly being assaulted by an SAQ employee. Steve Merling

At that point, Merling said his co-worker, Zwirek, called police.

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Merling said the employee then released his arm, grabbed his phone and allegedly deleted all his photographs — about 840 of them.

“I was devastated. I lost photos of so many events I’ve produced over the years,” said Merling.

“Friends, family, my aunt that passed away, my first wedding anniversary — really sentimental photos.”

According to his attorney, Jamie Benizri of Legal Logik, Merling is suing the SAQ on three grounds and is seeking $67,000 in damages:

  • For physical injuries, Merling is asking for $15,000.
  • For violation of moral rights and loss of dignity, he is asking for $10,000.
  • For loss of privacy and damages incurred, Merling is asking for $42,000 – about $50 for each picture that was deleted from his phone.

“The pictures are irreplaceable, they had an emotional attachment,” said Benizri.

“He was violated.”

When police arrived, Merling said officers took the surveillance footage into evidence.

But that’s not where the ordeal ends.

Merling said as he was about to leave the store, the manager came outside to ask that he not press charges against the employee.

“He tells me ‘sir, Thomas, he’s an excellent employee, he just bought a condo with his girlfriend so it wouldn’t be good if you get him in trouble,'” Merling said.

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“But the truth of the matter is, some of the photos are priceless. These are the highlights of my life. They’re deleted, gone permanently, forever.”

Benizri could not confirm whether police will file criminal charges against the employee.

“As of now, my only mandate is to represent the civil claim,” he said.

“If charges are filed against the employee, it would be under the jurisdiction of the Crown.”

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