COVID

Lawsuit: Anti-vaxers want $6 million each for alleged harm caused by Boston’s indoor vaccine mandate

The plaintiffs allege they have suffered humiliation, anxiety, and "mental anguish" as a result of the policy.

Sgt. Shana Cottone (center) shouted a question to Mayor Michelle Wu as she stood across the street from Wu's home. JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF

Sixteen people have filed an amended lawsuit in federal court seeking $6 million each in damages from the City of Boston, after they say the city’s former indoor COVID-19 vaccine mandate violated their constitutional rights.

The group of plaintiffs last month initially filed a complaint against the city over the rule — which required patrons and staff of certain public establishments to display proof of vaccination — in an attempt to block it.

But the lawsuit was filed only hours before the city lifted the mandate, as COVID cases and hospitalizations dropped.

In the amended complaint filed Monday in Massachusetts U.S. District Court, the group wrote it filed its new complaint because “injunctive relief is no longer available.”

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Several of the plaintiffs, all of whom have not been vaccinated against the contagious virus, allege they have suffered humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, and “mental anguish” as a result of being denied service or barred entry to places such as restaurants, gyms, museums, and other venues. The order also effected the ability of some to work or retain employment, they allege.

They also allege the Boston Public Health Commission, which is listed as a defendant, is unconstitutional. Other defendants are the City of Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu, and BPHC Executive Director Dr. Bisola Ojikutu.

The complaint states each plaintiff is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and an additional $5 million in punitive damages, as well as having the cost of their attorney and other legal fees covered.

Shana Cottone, the leader of Boston First Responders United, an anti-COVID vaccine mandate group representing first responders, is among the plaintiffs.

Cottone, a 14-year veteran of the police department who lives in Norfolk, made headlines in January after she was placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation.

Cottone, a Boston police sergeant, has regularly protested the mandate and others outside Wu’s home in recent months. She alleged earlier this year that her suspension was politically motivated.

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According to the lawsuit, an investigation began after police were called to enforce the indoor vaccine mandate when Cottone was refused service for food at two Boston pizzerias on Jan. 15, when Cottone was already on leave from the department.

According to Universal Hub, the two incidents played out at restaurants alongside the route of a protest march led by Cottone.

The lawsuit states Cottone “has a medical issue pertaining to blood sugar levels and frequently must have immediate access to food.”

“It was reported to Cottone that Boston Police are attempting to fire her because of the incidents mentioned,” the lawsuit states.

Cottone has also refused to be vaccinated because of religious reasons. The lawsuit did not elaborate on Cottone’s beliefs.

The complaint states Cottone “has suffered severe emotional distress i.e. ’embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish’ because of the incidents.”

Likewise, several other of the plaintiffs’ experiences with repercussions of the mandate are described in detail in the court filing.

Jason Andrew Dunton, a Revere resident who owns a gym in Boston, said his business dropped approximately 30 percent when the order took hold, according to the complaint.

“Because of the order, Dunton believed he was required to hire additional staff to check patrons’ personal medical status as to vaccination for COVID-19,” the filing states, adding that Dunton “is not vaccinated and will not be vaccinated.”

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Another plaintiff, Naomi Hastings, a carpenter in Boston, was barred from work because one of her job sites was among the venues covered by the mandate, according to the lawsuit.

Plaintiff Laura Ann Lasdow, meanwhile, was “no longer able to dine out with her husband at their weekly ‘night out’ at a local Dorchester restaurant but would have to travel outside Boston to dine out,” the filing states.

Lasdow also had to leave town to use a gym.

The lawsuit was assigned to Judge Angel Kelley last month. An attorney for city officials had not yet responded to the complaint as of Tuesday.

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