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St. Louis Attorneys Secure Summary Judgment in Discrimination Case

Missouri partner Brian K. McBrearty and attorney Lori A. Schmidt recently obtained summary judgment on behalf of our retail client in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri wherein the employee of our retail client allegedly discriminated against the Plaintiff, a customer of our client.

In 2019, Plaintiff entered our client’s store in Florissant, Missouri, with intent to purchase a manifold absolute pressure sensor, and to test a car battery to determine if a new battery was needed for his vehicle. Upon entering the store, Plaintiff requested help from the employee of our retail client, at which time the employee provided Plaintiff with a simple form required prior to car battery testing. After refusing to comply, the employee allegedly shouted derogatory and racist statements at Plaintiff, and threatened physical harm. Plaintiff filed the suit against our client in July 2020, alleging unlawful racial discrimination in contracting under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as well as common law causes of action for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and retention, and negligent supervision.

Our attorneys contended that evidence consisting of witness testimony of several co-workers established that no racist comments were made during the exchange. Brian and Lori also established that our client has a written policy that states discrimination based on legally protected status is prohibited. Additionally, all of the witnesses to the exchange, comprising the employee’s co-workers, testified that the employee had no history of such outburst. Our attorneys also argued that the evidence clearly showed no prior knowledge of a history of outbursts, racist behavior or difficulty with customers that involves the employee. Due to this, as a matter of law, Plaintiff could not hold our client liable for the employee’s actions. To hold the client liable, Plaintiff had to establish that our client knew, or should have known, that their employee had a history of discriminatory behavior.

Our attorneys moved for summary judgment in April 2022 based on the clear legal precedent that an employer must have reasonable grounds to believe an employee would act this way before assessing liability against the employer. The Court granted the motion on all five counts.

Brian represents clients in professional management, human resource and contract issues. He focuses his practice on insurance defense litigation, workers’ compensation, civil liability and construction accident matters. Brian’s practice also includes defending self-insured and insured trucking companies in state and federal courts throughout Missouri and Illinois.

Lori has experience handling a variety of litigation matters including Section 1983 claims, as well as construction liability, medical malpractice and transportation liability cases. She focuses her practice in the areas of general liability and insurance coverage. Lori has experience evaluating and defending state and federal cases throughout Missouri and Illinois.