A Jackson County jury awarded more than $2.8 million to an Iranian man who alleged he was terminated from Sam’s Club for skipping a COVID screening.
Mohammad Khoshneviszadeh, a longtime pharmacist at the store’s Independence location, learned in August 2020 that his wife had tested positive for COVID-19, so he was sent home for the day.
He tested negative and showed no symptoms, so he was placed back on the work schedule after a few days. Later that day, Khoshneviszadeh went home after developing a low-grade fever, though he received a second negative test.
The company alleged that Khoshneviszadeh had bypassed the mandatory health screening when he checked in, so he was terminated. The plaintiff, however, said no one was at the screening booth and that the screening app wasn’t working.
Khoshneviszadeh, who was 50 at the time, sued for discrimination based on age, disability, race and national origin. He argued that his superiors cleared him to work even though they knew his wife had tested positive and 14-day quarantine period hadn’t ended. He also alleged that the company had failed to terminate or reprimand a younger female associate who skipped the health screening.
During the trial, Judge Jennifer Phillips granted a directed verdict on the disability claim, which was based on the alleged perception that he and his wife had COVID. The jury found for Khoshneviszadeh on most of the remaining claims, awarding damages totaling $2,865,600. Jurors declined to award punitive damages, and they found for Sam’s Club on a claimed violation of the Missouri Service Letter Law.
In court documents, Sam’s Club has challenged the damage awards and said a portion of the damages should be subject to a $500,000 statutory cap. The court also is expected to consider an award of attorneys’ fees.
$2.87 million verdict
Breakdown: $665,600 past lost income; $200,000 past economic loss excluding past lost income; $1,000,000 future economic loss; $1,000,000 noneconomic loss.
Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court at Independence
Case Number/Date: 2116-CV25207
Judge: Jennifer Phillips
Last Pretrial Demand: $2,000,000
Last Pretrial Offer: $1,000
Caption: Mohammad Khoshneviszadeh v. Sam’s West Inc.
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Phillip M. Murphy II, Law Office of Phillip M. Murphy II, Kansas City; Doug L. Carter and John McCoy, Law Offices of Douglas L. Carter, Kansas City
Defendant’s Attorneys: Kyle Russell and Joshua J. Cervantes, Jackson Lewis, Overland Park, Kansas