By Charles Molineaux, WIS-TV
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) –A Columbia woman recovering from severe chemical burns accuses a Circle K convenience store clerk of ambushing her and deliberately dousing her with caustic cleaning chemicals and has now filed a lawsuit against the clerk and the store chain.
“I want to know why. Why? Why? That’s all,” said a tearful Annyona Smith who said the incident left her permanently disfigured, traumatized and facing more than $100,000 in medical bills.
A lawsuit filed in Richland County court by Smith’s Attorney Todd Ellis on Jun 29 names the clerk and Circle K Stores as defendants for the incident in the early hours of May 2 at a Circle K on Broad River Road.
Smith said she pulled her car into the store’s gas station after damaging her tires on a curb and tried to get help. Two bystanders were willing to pitch in, she said, but the clerk repeatedly told her to leave the premises.
“I was confused. I was panicking,” Smith recalled. “I am a single female out there in the dark, raining, thundering. The only thing in my mind is why is this clerk coming to the door like this?”
After several angry exchanges, Ellis and Smith say the clerk dashed a bucket of cleaning liquids at Smith.
“We’ve got what I believe is an ambush,” said Ellis. “Not only did this woman just happen to have a bucket of cleaning solution in her hand when Annyona came in. She had the door locked, went to go get [the bucket], moved it, put it down on the ground. Lured her in at that time. We think that changes everything.”
“I’m physically hurt so bad,” said Smith. “I don’t sleep. When I go to sleep, I have nightmares of the clerk throwing water on me. I have anxiety. I itch. I burn. I cannot come outside in the daytime. My life changed. I’m a different person.”
A representative for Circle K’s parent company Alimentation Couche-Tard in Canada said company policy prohibited public comment on pending lawsuits and that such matters would be handled through the courts, not the media.
Ellis called for the case to be handled as a criminal matter too.
“She uses a cleaning solution,” he said, “places it by the doorway, Lures my client in and then, aggravated assault at a minimum.”
Deputies with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office did respond to the incident.
A representative told WIS that investigators with the department and with the 5th Circuit Solicitors Office were still looking into possible criminal charges.
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