Dennis Conkin, 05/22/1997

The attorney for a man charging an East Bay K-Mart with AIDS discrimination has turned down an offer to settle the case for a payments — one nickel short of ten thousand bucks. Attorney Waukeen McCoy said he rejected the $9,999,95 offer by the giant corporation because of his client’s severe trauma. “He’s continuing to suffer substantial trauma because of this incident,” McCoy told the Bay Area Reporter.

Aksel Dirkzwager, the Nicaragua-born plaintiff, was shopping with his four-year-old son at the popular Hayward store for a Mother’s Day present for his wife and other items on May 11, 1996. According to the federal court lawsuit, he was escorted from the store and threatened by a K-Mart security guard after a cashier noticed a blister on Dirkzwager’s right index finger and went into hysterics when he told her he might have AIDS, after he used her pen to write a check.

The cashier placed the pen on the check stand and refused to hand it to Dirkzwager. After he had signed his check for the items, Dirkzwager attempted to hand the cashier the check and the pen he had borrowed. “She appeared to be frightened to touch either of these items,” the suit claims.

Dirkzwager, who has since tested negative for HIV, was concerned about possible exposure to the virus at the time of the incident, which he mentioned. According to the lawsuit, the unidentified cashier became “extremely agitated” and began screaming at him.

“Why didn’t you tell me that you had AIDS before you used my pen? You contaminated my pen and I already touch it,” the cashier allegedly screamed.

According to the lawsuit, the cashier left her work station, paged the K-Mart manager, and said over the public address system that “someone in my line has AIDS and he touched me.”

Dirkzwager was then ordered to leave the store, escorted from the premises, and allegedly threatened by a security guard.

McCoy said Dirkzwager’s son suffered nightmares after the public scene, was out of school for a week because of the trauma, and is still showing confusion over the incident.

“He still asks about the items he picked out from K-Mart and asks why he wasn’t able to purchase them with his father,” he said.

A controversy over evidence in the case, including McCoy’s demand for a copy of a potentially damaging statement by the yet-unidentified clerk, is scheduled to be heard in U.S. District Court next Wednesday, May 28.

McCoy told the B.A.R. he would wait until he was able to depose the security guard, and determine whether K-Mart represented him in the case, before a decision would be make about the legal action to take against him for the alleged abuse of authority.