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AITKIN, Minn. (AP) — A jury on Friday ruled that a central Minnesota pharmacist did not violate a woman’s rights when he refused to provide her emergency contraceptives more than three years ago.

Andrea Anderson, a mother of five from McGregor, sued under the Minnesota Human Rights Act after the pharmacist, based on his religious beliefs, refused to accommodate her request.

State law prohibits discrimination based on sex, including issues related to pregnancy and childbirth.

The ruling comes amid national political debate about contraception under federal law, with the U.S. House passing a bill that would guarantee the right to contraception. House Democrats are worried that a conservative U.S. Supreme Court that already erased federal abortion rights could go further and limit the use of contraception.

Leaders with the group Gender Justice, which represented Anderson, said they plan to appeal, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

“The testimony was so clear that she received lesser services than other customers because what she was going there for was emergency contraception. And so we believe that, by law, that’s discrimination in Minnesota,” said Jess Braverman, legal director for the advocacy group.

Anderson brought her prescription for a morning-after pill to the Thrifty White pharmacy in McGregor in January 2019. Longtime pharmacist George Badeaux told her he could not fill the prescription based on his beliefs.

Anderson eventually got her prescription filled at a pharmacy in Brainerd, making the round-trip of more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) in wintry driving conditions.

Attorneys for Badeaux did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Minnesota mother sues Walmart after fire in parking lot burned sleeping daughter, 6, alive in her minivan and permanently disfigured her nine-year-old while she shopped: Man, 72, set his neighboring van on fire after cooking on camping stove in the lot

A Minnesota mother is suing Walmart after a fire in a parking lot burned her two daughters, killing one and permanently disfiguring the other.

Essie McKenzie, 33, was shopping at the Walmart in Fridley, Minnesota, in 2019 when her daughters, Ty'rah, 6, and Taraji, 9, were caught in a fire after Roberto Hipolito left a hot camping stove inside his minivan besides the girls' car. 

McKenzie is now seeking at least $75,000 in damages against Walmart, blaming the company for its 'well-known' policy of allowing people to camp out in their parking lots but not monitoring them to ensure the safety of others, KARE 11 reported. 

'Walmart encouraged and permitted a dangerous condition on its property,' the lawsuit states. '[Walmart] escalated that danger by failing to provide staff to oversee the appropriate use of its parking lot as a campground.'

Essie McKenzie, 33, is seeking at least $75,000 against Walmart, blaming the company for not monitoring campers in its parking lot after one left a hot cooking stove in his minivan, causing a fire that spread to her car, killing her sleeping six-year-old and scarring her nine-year-old  

McKenzie was shopping at the Walmart in Fridley, Minnesota, in 2019, when she left her sleeping daughters in the car

Ty'rah (left. ) suffered a heart attack after first responders pulled her and her older sister out of the burning vehicle. She was revived at the scene before dying at a nearby hospital. Taraji (right)  suffered severe burns

The lawsuit blames the company for its 'well-known' policy of allowing people to camp out in their parking lots but not monitoring them to ensure the safety of others. Pictured: Two charred vehicles sit in the parking lot

Roberto Lino Hipolito, 72, pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent fire causing great bodily harm and settled a $130,000 lawsuit filed against him by McKenzie

According to investigators, Hipolito, 72, of Long Beach, California, was traveling with his wife in their 2005 Dodge Caravan, living in the vehicle as they traveled across the country. 

Hipolito had used a camping stove to make breakfast on August 6, 2019, but failed to wait for it to cool down before storing it in the minivan and parking beside McKenzie, who left her sleeping daughters in car after an early trip to the airport. 

While the Hipolitos and McKenzie were in the store, the minivan caught fire, which eventually spread to the car where the girls were sleeping. 

First responders rushed to the scene and were able to get the girls out of the burning vehicle. Ty'rah suffered a heart attack and was revived at the scene before dying at a nearby hospital. 

The lawsuit claims that the surviving Taraji suffered burns that will leave her physically and emotionally scarred for life. 

Investigators found that Hipolito had used a camping stove to make breakfast on August 6, 2019, but failed to wait for it to cool down before storing it in the minivan, causing the fire

The flames spread to McKenzie's car on the left, where the two girls were sleeping 

First responders rushed to the scene and were able to get the girls out of the burning vehicle

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The wrongful death suit states that by not monitoring the Hipolitos, who had been at the parking lot overnight, Walmart maintained 'dangerous conditions' on store grounds. 

'These unregulated, unlicensed, and unmonitored campgrounds pose a threat of illness, injury, noise, and crime to a considerable number of members of the public,' the suit reads. 

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Walmart stated: 'Our sympathies remain with the friends and family impacted by this tragic event three years ago. We plan to defend the company and will respond in court to the complaint as appropriate.' 

McKenzie, pictured with her kids, said the in lawsuit that by not monitoring the Hipolitos, who had been at the parking lot overnight, Walmart maintained 'dangerous conditions' 

She said her surviving daughter faces life-long trauma after she watched her sister die

 The family had previously reached a $130,000 settlement in a civil case against Hipolito

The lawsuit comes two years after McKenzie reached a $130,000 settlement in a civil case against Hipolito. 

Although initially charged with manslaughter, Hipolito pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent fire causing great bodily harm and was sentenced in 2020 to 120 months in jail and three years probation.

The more serious second-degree manslaughter charge was dropped given Hipolito's advanced age and lack of criminal history. 

Assistant County Attorney Wade Kish, the prosecutor, said the McKenzie family did not object to the decision and were satisfied with the sentencing.  

During the sentencing hearing, McKenzie recounted the not only the physical damage Taraji, suffered, but also the mental anguish. 

'She watched her six-year-old sister lose everything in the palm of her hand,' McKenzie said.  

Hipolito accepted his culpability in the fatal fire, telling the court, 'I wished that this never happened, and I wish I could do something to fix it, but I can do nothing.' 

Read more:
  • Woman sues Walmart over parking lot fire that killed her daughter | kare11.com

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