Jury Reaches Decision In McDonald's Strip-Search Hoax Case

SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A jury awarded $6.1 million Friday to
a woman who said she was forced to strip in a McDonald's back
office after someone called the restaurant posing as a police
officer.
Louise Ogborn, 21, had sued McDonald's Corp., claiming the
fast-food giant failed to warn her and other employees about the
caller who already struck other McDonald's stores and other
fast-food restaurants across the country.
Ogborn had been seeking $200 million but was awarded $5 million
in punitive damages and about $1.1 million in compensatory damages.
"There's nobody in the world worth $200 million," juror Kay
Parrish told reporters, adding the amount awarded will enable
Ogborn to "live well the rest of her life" and "put all this
behind her."
McDonald's attorneys argued the company was not responsible.
A teary Ogborn hugged relatives after the verdict was read and
later expressed relief the case was over. Speaking to reporters
gathered outside a judicial center and with her attorney at her
side, the soft-spoken Ogborn said she planned to use some of the
money to attend law school.
Her attorney, Ann Oldfather, called the decision a "resounding
rejection" of McDonald's claim that it shouldered no fault for
what happened to Ogborn at the restaurant about 20 miles south of
Louisville.
"Louise has stood up for what happened to her and what
McDonald's failed to do for three and a half years, and this jury
just vindicated her completely," Oldfather said.
McDonald's is evaluating whether to appeal the decision, a
spokesman said.
"While we are disappointed with the verdict, we remain vigilant
in our efforts to protect our employees and provide them with a
safe and respectful workplace," said William Whitman, a spokesman
for McDonald's USA.
The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of
sexual abuse. Ogborn's name, however, has appeared in previous
newspaper and broadcast stories with her permission.
In setting the compensatory damages, the Bullitt County Circuit
Court jury put half the blame for the incident on McDonald's and
the other half on the unnamed caller. Oldfather told reporters
later that she would argue that McDonald's should be held liable
for the entire $6.1 million.
The jury, whose deliberations spanned about 13 hours over two
days following a four-week trial, also awarded $1.1 million to
Donna Summers, a former McDonald's assistant store manager who also
sued the fast-food chain. Summers led the strip search of Ogborn at
the direction of the hoax caller.
Summers was placed on probation for a misdemeanor conviction in
relation to the incident. Her former fiance, Walter Nix Jr., is
serving five years in prison for sexually abusing Ogborn during the
hoax call.
A Florida man, David Stewart, was acquitted last year on charges
of making the hoax phone call. Police have said the calls stopped
after Stewart's arrest.
On Friday, Summers expressed vindication with the verdict.
"For the first time in three and a half years I can hold my
head up," she said.
Ogborn, who was 18 at the time of the search, accused the
company of negligence leading up to the events in April 2004, when
she was detained for 3½ hours.
In the lawsuit, she said someone called the restaurant in Mount
Washington impersonating a police officer and gave a description of
a young, female employee, accusing her of stealing from a customer.
The caller instructed an employee to strip search the woman,
according to testimony.
Ogborn was forced to undress, endure a strip search, and to
perform sexual acts, the lawsuit said. The events were captured on
surveillance video, which was shown to jurors during the trial.
Summers and Kim Dockery, a McDonald's assistant manager, also
were named as defendants in Ogborn's suit, but the jury ruled they
did not have to pay any damages. Oldfather said that Summers and
Dockery were duped by the hoax caller, as other fast-food
restaurant managers across the country had been.
"Everybody is still suffering because of this, and now maybe
McDonald's will suffer a little bit in the pocketbook," Oldfather
said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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