NEW ORLEANS — A carjacking victim who was brutally dragged through a gas station lot last February is suing Costco Wholesale Corp. and the owners and managers of its New Orleans store, claiming they were negligent and didn’t do enough to protect customers after a string of attacks at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022.
The lawsuit by local real estate agent Kelleye Rhein and her husband was filed last week in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. It lists seven criminal incidents reported to New Orleans police in less than three months prior to the Feb. 1 attack on Rhein, in which two teens pulled up in a white SUV and took her car while she was still pumping gas.
She was dragged along the pavement and states in the lawsuit that she was knocked unconscious, was rushed to intensive care and suffered traumatic brain injury, skull fractures, disfigurement, spinal injuries and abrasions and scarring over much of her body.
The lawsuit also names the general manager and two assistant managers at the Costco store in Mid-City and the owner of the Costco property, Carrollton Central Plaza Associates, a partnership owned by New York real estate mogul Jeffrey Feil, according to state records.
Rhein’s petition also names as defendants Tyrese Harris, an 18-year-old who was arrested and charged in the carjacking, as well as the mother of a minor who was also arrested and charged in the criminal case. Harris was a multiple violent offender who was out on bond at the time of the attack on Rhein.
Rhein’s lawsuit contends Harris and the younger boy were the same perpetrators who attempted to carjack someone in nearly the same manner at the Costco gas station on Jan. 31, less than 24 hours before Rhein was victimized at 2:40 p.m. Feb. 1.
Video of the Jan. 31 incident showed a white SUV, which the lawsuit says was the same vehicle allegedly used by Harris and the other teen the next day, and one of the teens getting out and trying to take a car. They fled on Jan. 31, however, after the woman pumping gas on the passenger side ran to the driver’s side and appeared to push the assailant back into the SUV.
The lawsuit also lists carjackings in the Costco main parking lot on Nov. 10 and 12, 2021, reports of car burglaries in the parking lot on Dec. 6 and Dec. 20, and two other carjackings at the gas station in little over a month prior to the attack on Rhein, on Dec. 27 and Jan. 16.
A few days after Rhein was carjacked, the lawsuit says Costco had private security and an NOPD vehicle guarding the gas station. Costco also laid out cones to block the middle lane between two sets of gas pumps, to prevent vehicles like the white SUV from pulling up next to customers while they are pumping gas.
Costco did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit Tuesday.