ORLANDO, Fla. — The widow of a 69-year-old man has sued an Orlando Walgreens store, accusing them of holding her husband captive until he cleaned and mopped the store’s bathroom.
Maria Elizarraras claims that the humiliation of the experience caused emotional distress so severe that it killed her husband, Fernando Elizarraras.
The lawsuit was originally filed in state court but was moved to federal court Monday, according to court documents.
According to the suit, Fernando Elizarraras went to the Walgreens on Landstar Boulevard, where he had been a long-term customer, on Oct. 15, 2012.
After using the bathroom at the store, store employees stopped Fernando as he tried to leave and physically escorted him back to the bathroom, the lawsuit alleges.
The employees insisted the 69-year-old man clean the facility because, “You left a mess, (expletive) all over the bathroom,” the suit says.
For 20 minutes, Fernando was threatened and forced to clean and mop the bathroom before he was allowed to leave the store, his wife claims in the suit.
The incident caused Fernando to be “humiliated, disgraced and injured in his feelings, emotionally and mentally,” the lawsuit says.
The emotional distress caused by the situation was so severe that it “resulted in the death of Fernando,” the suit says.
“In all my years in the court system, this is new to me, never seen it,” said WFTV legal analyst Belvin Perry.
Perry said the claim for false imprisonment is a compelling one, but proving it led to the man’s death, which the lawsuit alleges, could be a stretch.
“We need to know how cleaning a bathroom led to a death,” Perry said. “It’s just an allegation with no specificity.”
The claims may be thrown out before trial, he said.
The lawsuit does not say how much time passed between the incident and Fernando’s death and there is no certificate of death filed in Florida.
When Fernando Elizarraras died is a key piece of information, Perry said.
“The longer the gap between the incident and the death, the more difficult it is to connect the two,” he said.
On behalf of her husband’s estate, Maria Elizarraras was suing the company for an undetermined amount, but according to court documents has a standing offer to settle for $500,000.
The attorney representing the man’s family would not comment and would not say when the man died or how.
Walgreens would not provide its policy on the public’s use of store restrooms and said, because the litigation is ongoing, would not comment on the case.