Saint Patrick’s Day pinch brings lawsuit

An Asheville woman has filed suit against a grocery-store clerk for pinching her on St. Patrick’s Day, even though she was wearing green at the time.

According to police reports, Meghan Eileen O’Flannahan was purchasing a six-pack of Guinness at the Fresh Market on Merrimon Avenue on March 17 when the clerk, Catherine Colleen O’Malley, reached over and gave O’Flannahan a sharp pinch on the cheek. “You forgot your green,” O’Malley said, according to witnesses.

But according to the police report, O’Flannahan was wearing forest-green patent-leather pumps, which O’Malley couldn’t see from behind the check-out counter.

“I’m humiliated,” O’Flannahan told Mountain Xpress. She has accused O’Malley of slander, claiming the unwarranted pinch defamed her “good Irish name.” She’s suing for $500 and a round-trip ticket to Ireland.

“If I hadn’t been wearing me green, then I would ha’ had a pinch acomin’,” said O’Flannahan. “But I was wearing me green, and from where I hail, a pinch when a gal’s wearing her green on Saint Paddy’s — well, it’s not a laughin’ matter,” said the Dublin-born O’Flannahan, who has lived in the Beaverdam area for the past 12 years.

O’Malley contends O’Flannahan’s green wasn’t obvious enough and that she wasn’t wearing enough of it — and, therefore, she warranted a pinch. “[O’Flannahan] calls herself Irish, but any good Irish man or woman knows that a pair of forest-green patent-leather pumps don’t mean squat on Saint Paddy’s [Day],” said O’Malley, who’s originally from Belfast, but has lived in west Asheville for the past three years.

“Now I was wearing green,” said O’Malley, who, according to witnesses, was sporting green stockings, a green turtleneck, a green four-leaf-clover pin, as well as her mandatory green Fresh Market apron, when the incident occurred.

The laws surrounding the case are murky, says O’Malley’s attorney, Casey Frances O’Toole. In Buncombe County, a mistaken Saint Patrick’s Day pinch to someone wearing green is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $10 fine and a 30-day suspended sentence. A pinch on purpose, when the pincher knows the victim really is wearing green, is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, a six-month jail sentence, and a mandatory Saint Patrick’s Day history-and-re-education course. O’Toole says his client is considering a counter-suit, but hasn’t yet decided what to sue for.

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2 thoughts on “Saint Patrick’s Day pinch brings lawsuit

  1. alex35

    Is this a real suit or is it a joke? An essential element of slander is damages. Even if you get past the issue of whether pinching someone really besmirches someone’s “good irish name,” where are the damages? In what way will this woman suffer?

    Like these slander legal answers demonstrate, it’s not enough to claim someone did something or said something bad about you. You need to have been financially harmed in some way. How could she possibly show that here? This sounds like a joke.

  2. “Is this a real suit or is it a joke?”

    It’s probably worth looking at the publication date on this story, which was published on April 1, 1998. You’ve been had, and from a decade in the past.

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