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So a guy tries to walk into the Dedham Whole Foods without a mask on ...

And they don't let him in, so he sues, and he loses pretty spectacularly.

On Jan. 4, 2021, Ryan Manning of Needham tried walking into the Whole Foods at Legacy Place without a mask on. Managers offered him a mask, but he refused because it's "part of a satanic ritual" and so against his religion, also, it would lower his immune system and deprive him of oxygen. They offered to do his shopping for him and bring him his food. He refused. They asked him to leave. He refused, in fact, said he wanted to make "a citizen's arrest." They called police. Police made him leave.

Then, of course, Manning made a federal case out of it all, filing a pro se lawsuit in US District Court in Boston, alleging his freedom of religion and speech were abused, that he was discriminated against, that the managers were illegally practicing medicine, that the store falsely imprisoned him.

Judge Allison Burroughs agreed with Whole Foods to dismiss the entire suit. And in her ruling, handed down last month, she provided ample evidence that Manning might have benefited from consultation with a lawyer, who could have shown him that all of his eight allegations were legal hogwash, especially in the middle of a pandemic.

Despite the myriad of claims brought by Plaintiff, there is no constitutional, statutory, or common law right to jeopardize the health of others by shopping in a Whole Foods, without a mask, in contravention of its prudent policy, during a mass pandemic. If your heart is set on products from a market with a mask requirement and you can't or won't wear a mask, your choices are to get your food delivered, have someone else shop for you, or reconsider wearing a mask for your own health and the good health of the other shoppers.

But that was Burroughs' conclusion to her ruling. She first had to demolish Manning's claims, one by one.

First, you can't bring First Amendment suits against private parties unless you can prove they were doing something under the control of a government body, she wrote. Manning failed to show that was the case.

But even if Manning could have made that case:

Plaintiff states that his religious beliefs prohibit him from wearing a mask, but the complaint lacks any allegations suggesting he was treated differently than others who do not share his religious belief or that Defendants’ actions were motivated by his religious beliefs. In fact, the complaint pleads that Defendants treated everyone the same and that everyone was subject to the Mask Policy.

Also:

Although Plaintiff alleges that Massachusetts had a mask mandate and that it was a state custom to wear masks, he is not challenging the Massachusetts mask mandate and he has not alleged any facts to show that Massachusetts coerced Defendants into implementing or enforcing their own Mask Policy.

Ah, but what about the federal criminal law Manning cited that prohibits discrimination?

That particular law does can only be enforced by law enforcement, not private citizens, Burroughs said. Count dismissed.

Yeah, but, Manning continued, Whole Foods conspired with the CDC and Gov. Baker to discriminate against him.

No, they didn't, or at least Manning provided no proof that they did, Burroughs wrote.

At most, the complaint alleges that [the managers who blocked him] worked for Whole Foods and that Officer Rinn arrived on the scene after responding to a call placed by Plaintiff. There are no other factual allegations that would suggest that the Defendants had any sort of agreement between themselves or anyone else, let alone an agreement to deprive Plaintiff of his rights. These "[v]ague and conclusory allegations about persons working together, with scant specifics as to the nature of their joint effort or the formation of their agreement, will not suffice to defeat a motion to dismiss." Alston, 988 F.3d at 578.

But the managers "practiced unauthorized medicine" by trying to get him to wear a mask, Manning persisted.

Wrong again, the judge volleyed.

Aside from his conclusory assertion that masks are medical treatment, there are no allegations that plausibly suggest that Defendants “were practic[ing] or attempt[ing] to practice medicine” by implementing and enforcing the Mask Policy.

Manning continued, alleging "civil harassment" under Massachusetts law and false imprisonment.

And so Burroughs continued as well, noting that in Massachusetts, "civil harassment" requires proof of a pattern of egregious behavior, and one incident at the door of a supermarket is no pattern. Also, Manning failed to prove that asking him to wear a mask was "specifically intended to cause fear, intimidation, or abuse."

False imprisonment? Please.

Plaintiff has failed to allege that he was not free to leave at any time during his interaction with Defendants. In his opposition brief, Plaintiff argues that he "was held and questioned by the police prior to being forced to leave the premise on threat of arrest. ... It is undisputed that Plaintiff called the police to the scene so any purported threat of arrest by the police fails to support the plausible inference that Defendants engaged in conduct that confined Plaintiff in any way.

Having completed dismissing all the allegations against the two store managers and the chain, Burroughs then went out of her way to specifically dismiss Manning's allegations against Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, even though Mackey himself had not specifically asked for dismissal, "because the complaint contains no substantive factual allegations regarding Mackey."

Via MetaFilter. H/t Rebecca.

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PDF icon Complete ruling214.93 KB
PDF icon Manning's complaint505.07 KB

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Comments

What a waste of everyone's time. Too bad they can't make him pay court costs for his silly lawsuit.

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Voting closed 118

It's absurd that a federal judge (and her staff) have to waste time on such a frivolous lawsuit.

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The corporate power structure would love nothing better than "loser pays winner's legal fees." That way, when they knowingly sell a defective product that kills your kid, and you seek some kind of justice through the courts, they would know that they could win a war of attrition against you by throwing unlimited legal resources at the problem, tying you up in procedural knots for years until you run out of money or will, and then they get to take your house.

I'm not saying that there isn't a role for suing to recover legal fees when someone brings an actual bad-faith suit against you, but a blanket "loser pays winner's legal fees" rule is something that corporations have been lusting after forever.

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The real solution is to make the legal process cheaper and quicker. When there's less money being spent on lawyers, there's less of an obstacle to getting justice when you really deserve it, and less of a financial tragedy getting sued when you don't deserve it.

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has to pay the defendant's legal costs in a trial if they lose.

If the plaintiff wins, the defendant has to pay the plaintiff's legal costs. Why should it be any different if the plaintiff loses?

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The loser is routinely ordered to pay the winner's legal costs, but that is different than legal fees. Costs include things like the cost to file a suit and serve it, usually small potatoes in terms of overall litigation expenses.

It has been the rule in England for some time that the loser pays the winner's legal fees. There are benefits and consequences to each approach.

There are systems in place here to (try to) prevent abuse of the system, and judges will sometimes require serial pro se litigants of frivolous claims to get court approval before filing any new suits.

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Good luck with your corporate dystopia with that model.

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I mean, it's great that this maroon got his case summarily tossed, and I like reading judges dunking on idiots as much as the next guy, but this hasn't solved anything. It no doubt wasted the time and money of both the Whole Foods legal team and the various city and state agencies that had to spend untold hours litigating this clusterfuck. This is why the antimask and antivaxx crowd are getting away with what they're doing--if you file your lawsuits pro se, all it costs you is the time it takes to write your crayon scribblings on a napkin, but someone else with "esquire" in their title has to actually deal with your utter dumbassery.

These chuckleheads, and their sov-cit brethren, and most of the rest of the lunatic fringe, would disappear overnight if courts started billing them for the trouble of formally telling them to fuck off.

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He had to pay a filing fee ($400 or so, I think). I know, trivial compared to the cost of all the lawyers Whole Foods has listed in the docket, but still.

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Crayons are expensive!

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You should read the one regarding the 2020 election lawsuits in Michigan. She literally sends the Trump side lawyers back to school because of their incompetence. It's brutal, but a great look into the sheer incompetence of those who were in the inner circle of the last administration.

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/ag/172_opinion__order_King_733786_7.pdf

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That was delightful, and those jabronis sure picked a weird hill to die on. I'd guess that, on the good side, at least a few of them will be disbarred, but on the bad side, this looks like a classic opportunity to fail upward and make a living crying about how persecuted they are.

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If I run into someone who buys the whole stolen election thing I give them an analogy. Let's say there was a woman who filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment that claimed that their boss looked at them in a way that made them uncomfortable and the filing went on to say that she was afraid that the boss could want to rape her because of that and that they wanted their boss to be imprisoned for the rest of their life to counter that fear. Then the same woman went outside and held a press conference and went on tv shows claiming that the boss violently raped her, beat her and left her nearly for dead.

Would you believe her statements outside of court? Obviously rational people don't.

Then I tell them that the legal filings about the election are the equivalent of that. A lot of them make complaints about things like whether a drop box meets the definition of delivering a ballot "in person" or if the election officials had the authority to make the changes that were put in place in consideration of the pandemic. Then they say they want all the votes thrown out. Yet outside of those filings (where there are serious penalties for spouting bullshit) they are screaming about thousands of dead people voting or hundreds of thousands of voting machine ballots being flipped. In the document listed above part of what the judge slams them for is that the affidavits from the witnesses for fraud were never actually verified by the attorneys and that the lawyers were so bad that they didn't even realize that even if what they say were true they didn't contain anything that was against Michigan law.

It's such obvious crap that I can't help but question the logic and intelligence of anyone who buys into it. To give them a chance to walk back closer to reality I tell them that they need to "dO yoUr oWN reSeArcH!" and look at the court filings and decisions related to the election. If they do and don't see the same claims about fraud that they currently believe then the only logical conclusion is that they believe that the boss violently raped and beat the woman.

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.

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You’re implying that Mr. Manning can read.

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Seems like the type of person that would also say a private business can make the decisions they want, but only when it's in agreement with his beliefs.

And it's amazing how often people cite the Constitution (mostly the 1st Amendment) without even understanding what each Amendment means and how it is applied.

And on top of all of this, for whatever the cause that made you bring Amazon to court - how could someone actually think they could take on Amazon themselves without the guidance of even the junkiest of lawyers?

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The "Lawsuit" tag is definitely helpful for wayfinding around the myriad newsworthy suits here. I'd like to suggest a special tag for cases like this and Dr. Shiva's ongoing campaign of legal quackery.

Tagging them 'Pro Se' is probably the most respectful, news-like way of doing it as there are pro se cases that are well litigated. That said, I'm not above tagging cases like the above as 'LOLsuits.'

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Man, my trips to the grocery store just got so much cooler.

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There's a Ryan P Manning on twitter who is all tatted up - it would be hilarious if this heavy metal looking guy was the same person that though masks were too much.

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"Excuse me, do you have any fresh squeezed Christian baby blood or do you only have this pasteurized brand?"

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this being Whole Foods, shouldn’t there be an organic option?

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Organic babies are in the Amish & Christian Science section. They are currently running low on Jehovah's Witnesses. Supply chain and all that...

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My particular religious laws "does can only be" make me drink divine+human blood and partake in divine +human flesh, and it isn't even cooked! He thinks masks are part of satanic rituals, he'll flip out if he saw what millions of practitioners do for their rituals.

But heck, they've been through a much worse than name-calling.

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The sad part is that this is yet another example of the degradation or the mental and emotional capacity of our society and the human species.

Bad enough there is that whole Email inventor thingy. Note current tense of "is" rather than was. The issue is sort of like the next walking zombie movie.

Dare I even venture into labeling this as "white entitlement." Sure smacks of it. This story also reads as if this guy was not there to do any shopping but to provoke confrontation so he could do this. If so, is he alone, or is there an unnamed body of people behind him using him as the pawn for advancement.

I'm not necessarily one to advance conspiracy theories, but at some point you start to wonder if this is being pressed from places and people that are trying to turn us all against each other using what ever "issue de jure" is ripe enough to provoke an emotional response from the weak-minded. Also let's not confuse weak-minded with education. The two are mutually exclusive This refers back to the Email inventor of course. Educated well, possibly genius, but off the rails. It happens.

How much of this is being generated from within, and how much of this is being fueled by outside actors. It's one thing to try to hack our computers and infrastructure, but something else to hack the minds of a society with wild conspiracies, and playing havoc with their own insecurities and fears.

And then of course the internal fascist-leaning politicians that just toss kerosene onto the glowing embers.

We are divided over science and religion.
We are divided over health and well being due to the pandemic.
We are divided over race and equality.
We are divided over political leanings.

All of these have their own sub-issues grasping at the coattails. Whom ever or what ever has created this, and is fueling it, is very successful. The question then becomes whether we can recognize this threat as a people and abate it. There is no cure for this, you can only treat the symptoms. Determining the cause and ending it will take some time.

There are two pandemics ongoing. One is a virus-caused disease, and the other one has attacked our rational thinking process.

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I assume you feel similarly about the unions fighting the vaccine mandate?

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Say rather that a segment of the population has been effectively brainwashed, propagandized, and is now living in a counterfactual reality. It's not "division", it's reality-based vs. delusional. One does not split the difference.

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And look, if forced to take a "side" on this, I'd probably be right next to you. That said, those who have been on the vanguard of anti-mask/anti-vax have claimed that the other side (that would be us) have been effectively been brainwashed, propagandized, and now live in a permanent state of fear that is being used to control us.

So yeah, we are divided.

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they want. That just exposes their lack of understanding of the scientific method and their basic critical thinking skills, and likely reflects poorly on their upbringing and education.

Again, there aren't two versions of reality here. There's science and ignorant anti-science. If they want to say, "Your following the science means you've been brainwashed", so be it. That statement says it all for me. Fuck the idiots who flunked high school chemistry bragging about doing their own research with the help of Facebook and Tucker Carlson.

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"Again, there aren't two versions of reality here."
But there are. Consider that there is significant division on the veracity of these statements:

In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.

If you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations, in general, you do not need to wear a mask unless in areas of high COVID cases or activities in close contact with those who are not fully vaccinated.

In one reality, that is true. In the other it is false. Part of the problem is mixed messages and a changing message that is not effectively disseminated.

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You can have your own opinion. That's where "sides" come from.

You can't have your own facts. That's what I'm talking about.

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I deny the worldview that says

Say rather that a segment of the population has been effectively brainwashed, propagandized, and is now living in a counterfactual reality.

Mainly because your opposite number says the same. Saying that those who can't accept that masks help reduce transmission of airborne viruses are brainwashed won't convince them that they in fact aren't brainwashed, but it will add fodder to their idea that you are the one who is brainwashed. Explaining why masks help reduce transmission of airborne viruses to these people, in theory, could convince them (assuming that a good, coherent message about mask wearing is out there, which is was until it wasn't.)

Circle around to the original comment. People are so divided that it is easier to claim that the other side is brainwashed than to have reasoned conversations about things.

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Mainly because your opposite number says the same.

One of us is right and one of us is wrong.

You do not get to have two opposing sets of facts.

Circle around to the original comment. People are so divided that it is easier to claim that the other side is brainwashed than to have reasoned conversations about things.

Malarky. The reason why it's hard to have "reasoned conversations about things" is that so many people are lacking in a decent education (from a school, self-educated, whatever) and critical thinking skills, and are therefore unable to tell fact from fiction. It's not "division". Why do you think conspiracy theories find fertile ground in some people and bounce right off others?

I have a friend who has a good brain, and is more widely traveled than most people. But he never got a decent education, and it shows. He passed along a conspiratorial meme with an embedded antisemitic dogwhistle, not because he's antisemitic, but because his education was shit, and the juxtaposition of "Rothschild" and dollar signs and objects arranged into a star of David just doesn't signify to him. The words "antisemitic canard" mean nothing to him. His lack of education also left him without the skills to identify manipulative messages. He's ripe for this stuff.

It isn't "division". That's a lazy copout.

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Because so many of these muppets don’t let their lack of expertise or experience get in the way of their Very Strong Opinions

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Now, admittedly, when one gets into an argument with you here, that's typically the case, but I am being meta.

Let me put it another way, saying that someone is brainwashed is the lazy way of challenging them.

Most of my aunts and uncles didn't finish secondary school, yet they can reason right from wrong and have deep intellectual conversations about politics, the economy, and the like. Meanwhile, there are "educated" people who delve into conspiracies all the time. Remember that time when the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. I don't, because that's a conspiracy theory, not grounded in reality but still accepted by some as a means of dealing with the actual reality. Same thing with people who think that masks are satanic tools in my mind.

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I wonder if the current level of anti-intelligence is the culmination of several decades of fueling hysteria and suffocating rational thinking. Hysteria, fear, anxiety. etc. are much more satisfying emotional states than cool rational thinking. Actually thinking through something requires a level of emotional-mental maturity that many folks never achieve.

In this nation (and others) the "leaders" who want to rule, rather than lead, understand this intuitively. They realize that emotion generally motivates far better than intellect. So keep the emotions high, the intellect low and enjoy the benefits of the potential electorate either being apathetic, or even when voting, voting on the basis of fear and anxiety.

Trump plays on this premise. Gingrich to Reagan all played the game where emotion, pardon the pun, trumps thought. The good news is that at least half the electorate in presidential contests don't fall into that trap. It pays to remember that Trump was given the WH based on an obsolete system of deciding who gets to live there for 4 years. But then on the other hand Biden showed that it took someone who was seen as very known, and very comforting to beat Trump. Not to insult Biden but in terms of electability he compares more favorably to Reagan than Carter in that electoral disaster.

I don't see a singularly coordinated campaign of pushing US voters away from rationality. Instead the issue is that people who use emotion as the greatest tool of persuasion also tend to be the most conservative, as well as greedy and selfish. From Moscow Mitch to Pat Robertson, from Newt Gingrich to the late and not missed Jerry Falwell the 1st. From another late and not missed Rush Limbaugh to the corral of hysteria mongers employed by Rupert Murdoch (Fox News). Heck, Murdoch is rich not because he encourages people to think. He is rich because he panders to negative hysteria. His and the other ultra right wing news networks are 100% committed to the maxim, "If it bleeds it leads." And if there is no bleeding to report on a given day, make some up. These folks would make Randolph Hearst proud.

So I don't see a radical right version of their own "Zionist conspiracy to conquer the world." Instead I see as the (lowest) common denominator the recognition that the easiest way to power when dealing with huge numbers of people is by manipulating their emotions.

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The good news is that at least half the electorate in presidential contests don't fall into that trap. It pays to remember that Trump was given the WH based on an obsolete system of deciding who gets to live there for 4 years.

Trump was not elected by Republicans. He was elected by Did Not Vote.

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I generally agree, with the observation that anti-intellectualism has a very long history in this country.

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"This story also reads as if this guy was not there to do any shopping but to provoke confrontation so he could do this."

I got that impression, too.

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he has done this before. Most frivolous lawsuit filers have a record.

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Thanks, Adam.

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"They offered to do his shopping for him and bring him his food."

Seems like they went above and beyond in their effort to accommodate the person. However, I get the feeling the person didn't want to be accommodated, rather just wanted to 'make a point', make a scene, or be a nuisance. :(

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Curbside pickup obviously has a legitimate and helpful function -- but, while IANAL, I would bet that it creates a pretty solid defense for at least some retailers such as grocery stores.

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