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C.W. v. Walgreen Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 31, 2018

C.W., a Deceased Minor, by Nina Gray, Personal Representative, and NINA GRAY, Plaintiffs,
v.
WALGREEN CO., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Walgreen Co.'s (“Defendant Walgreen”) motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and alternative motion to strike plaintiffs' prayers for punitive damages and attorney's fees. Plaintiff C.W., a deceased minor, by and through his personal representative and natural mother, Nina Gray (“Plaintiff C.W.”), and plaintiff Nina Gray, individually (“Plaintiff Gray”), oppose the motion. The motions are fully briefed and ripe for review. For the following reasons the Court will dismiss Plaintiff C.W.'s claims and strike Plaintiff Gray's prayer for attorney's fees.

         I. Background

         C.W., a fifteen-year-old African-American young man, was shopping at a Walgreens store in December 2015. C.W. had recently under gone heart transplant surgery. C.W. put his cell phone and money in his pants pocket as he reached for an item on a shelf with his other hand. C.W. was suddenly confronted by four Walgreens employees who demanded to know what he had put down his pants. The Walgreens employees marched C.W. to the front of the store and searched him in front of other shoppers putting their hands in his pockets and turning the pockets inside out, as well as lifting his shirt, exposing C.W.'s transplant scar. The employees found nothing on C.W.'s person to suggest he was doing anything other than shopping. C.W. passed away on July 4, 2016, allegedly as a result of having suffered from heightened physical and mental stress levels due to the incident at Walgreens.

         On March 14, 2017, plaintiff C.W., a deceased minor, by and through his next friend, Nina Gray, C.W.'s natural mother, filed this action in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri against Defendant Walgreen, seeking money damages arising from the incident in Defendant Walgreen's store. The Petition asserted state law claims for assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant Walgreen removed this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446, and this Court has original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         On June 4, 2017, Plaintiff C.W., a deceased minor, by and through his personal representative, Nina Gray, filed a First Amended Complaint which added Count IV, alleging a state law claim for wrongful death, and Count V, alleging violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Defendant Walgreen filed a motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff C.W. filed a response to Defendant Walgreen's motion to dismiss and also sought leave to amend the complaint a second time, which this Court granted.

         On August 2, 2017, Plaintiff C.W. and Nina Gray, individually, filed a Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff C.W. alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I), 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count II), and § 213.065, Missouri Revised Statutes (Count III), and Plaintiff Gray alleged wrongful death (Count IV).

         Defendant Walgreen filed a motion to dismiss Counts I, II, and III for failure to state a claim and an alternative motion to strike Plaintiff C.W.'s prayers for punitive damages and attorney's fees. Defendant Walgreen additionally seeks to strike Plaintiff Gray's prayer for attorney's fees in Count IV.

         II. Legal Standard

         Courts must satisfy themselves that a plaintiff has standing to bring a claim. “‘Where a plaintiff lacks standing, the court has no subject matter jurisdiction.'” Brooks v. City of Des Moines, Ia., 844 F.3d 978, 979 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Young America Corp. v. Affiliated Comput. Servs., Inc., 424 F.3d 840, 843 (8th Cir. 2005)).

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff need not provide specific facts in support of its allegations, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam), but “must include sufficient factual information to provide the ‘grounds' on which the claim rests, and to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & n.3). This obligation requires a plaintiff to plead “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint “must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.” Id. at 562 (quoted case omitted). This standard “simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim or element].” Id. at 556.

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, even if it appears that “actual proof of those facts is improbable, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, and reviews the complaint to determine whether its allegations show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Materials attached to the complaint as exhibits may be considered in construing the sufficiency of the complaint. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986).

         III. Discussion

         A. Count I, Plaintiff C.W.'s Claim Pursuant to 42 ...


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