ST. LOUIS - U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw has sided with Walgreens in a suit filed by the mother of an African-American teenager who claimed her son's death resulted from heightened physical and mental stress levels due to being searched at a store for potential shoplifting.
Nina Gray filed the original suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court in March of last year over an incident that took place in December 2015.
Her son, identified as C.W., had undergone a recent heart transplant at the time four store employees confronted him for having observed him put something in his pants pocket as he reached for an item on the shelf with his other hand.
According to the ruling, C.W. had been putting his cell phone and money in his pocket. Nevertheless, he was searched by pulling his pockets inside out as well as having his shirt lifted which exposed his transplant scar, the ruling states.
He died on July 4, 2016, allegedly as a result of the incident at Walgreens, the ruling states.
Gray's lawsuit sought monetary damages on state law claims of assault, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Walgreens later removed the case to federal court.
The complaint was amended twice adding claims of wrongful death.
Shaw held that Gray does not have standing to bring the suit, "as survivorship statute and the wrongful death statute are mutually antagonistic."
"Because the Missouri survival statute does not apply as a result of Plaintiff Gray’s allegation that Defendant Walgreen caused C.W.’s death, Plaintiff C.W. does not have standing to pursue a § 1983 claim for injuries caused by Defendant Walgreen," he wrote,
Regarding Gray's claim that Walgreen employees conspired to prevent her son from making a purchase and racial profiling, Shaw held that the viability of her claims depended on the viability of her survival claim. Because she lacked standing, Shaw dismissed this claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Walgreen had argued that another claim under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) should be dismissed because Gray failed to obtain a right to sue letter by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.
"Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint contains no allegations about filing an administrative claim or other steps taken to exhaust remedies under the MHRA, and there is no reference to the necessary ‘right to sue’ letter," Shaw wrote. "Plaintiff C.W. does not contest Defendant Walgreen’s assertion that administrative remedies were not pursued. Accordingly, Count III is dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust administrative remedies."