An employee runs after a shoplifter and gets injured in the chase. Do you salute his effort, or refuse to pay his $23,000 in medical bills?

Well, this week's Rogue, Safeway, chose the latter.

On Jan. 11, 2000, 28-year-old Abderrahim Najjar was outside the downtown Safeway around 8 pm, after finishing his work shift when a shoplifter ran out with a bottle of wine.

Najjar said his boss, head clerk Wilson Lee, yelled to him to help chase down the thief. Najjar did so but injured his knee when he fell over a ledge in a parking lot a couple blocks from the store.

Since he was off-duty, workers' compensation would not pay for the medical bills to fix the anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee.

Najjar, who had worked at Safeway as a maintenance clerk for five years, asked the store to pay for lost wages, pain and suffering and the medical bills for the two knee surgeries. When Safeway refused, he hired an attorney and sued the grocery chain in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The first trial ended in a hung jury in May 2002. But Najjar won a $31,069 judgment in a second jury trial on Oct. 23, 2002. Safeway appealed, but on Dec. 28, 2005, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the verdict for Najjar.

Najjar, who is currently unemployed, doesn't know what he will do with the $15,000 left after his medical bills and his attorney's share. But Najjar, who has lived in Portland for 15 years and has four children, says his knee has still not fully recovered.

Safeway's attorney, Portland lawyer Barry Mount, did not return calls seeking comment.