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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Courts - More on "McDonald's sanctioned in strip-search case"

Updating this ILB entry from Friday, Andrew Wolfson has a very long story today in the Louisville Courier Journal headed "$200 million strip-search case to begin: Teen worker says McDonald's is to blame; company disagrees." It is accompanied by a graphic locating previous strip-search hoaxes at McDonald's on a map of the United States. Number 20 took place March 3, 2001 in Linton, IN.

Here are a few quotes from the story today:

Three years ago, in a case that eventually drew national attention to Bullitt County, Ky., an 18-year-old high school senior making $6.35 an hour at McDonald's was subject to the cruelest of hoaxes -- accused by a caller of theft, then detained, stripped and sexually humiliated for hours in the restaurant office.

Two others, also duped by the hoax, were convicted of crimes, though a jury acquitted the man police charged with orchestrating the entire thing.

Now, a jury will decide what price -- if any -- the $59 billion McDonald's Corp. should pay for Louise Ogborn's degrading ordeal.

In a fiercely litigated lawsuit scheduled to go to trial tomorrow, Ogborn will ask a Bullitt Circuit Court jury to make the company pay her more than $200 million -- including $100 million in punitive damages -- for failing to warn her and other employees about a hoax caller who had already struck 32 other McDonald's stores and as many as 130 other fast-food restaurants and retail stores across the nation.

It is believed to be the first such suit to go to trial; the rest were settled.

McDonald's says it's not to blame and that the real culprits include the caller -- and Ogborn herself.

The trial is expected to take four weeks. Stacked one atop the other, the pleadings in the case -- 815 documents in 35 volumes -- would stand 10 feet tall, twice the height of Ogborn herself.

"It is an interesting collision of forces going to battle over a bizarre set of facts," said William McMurry, the Louisville lawyer who helped win a $25.7 million settlement in sex-abuse cases against the Archdiocese of Louisville.

"There is no middle ground," he said. "It will be either a zero verdict for the plaintiff or a gazillion dollars. I have never seen as sensational a case as this, with so much to lose on both sides."

Lawyers have taken 57 depositions from more than 40 witnesses, and each side lists more than 80 people it might call to the stand.

McDonald's has retained eight expert witnesses in fields as diverse as psychiatry, probability, corporate security and human behavior, and it will employ two major law firms in its defense.

The principal antagonists are two of Kentucky's leading trial attorneys, Ann Oldfather for Ogborn and W.R. "Pat" Patterson for McDonald's.Ogborn, claiming she is wracked by fear and depression, is seeking compensation for her lost enjoyment of life and an expected lifetime of therapy and medication costs. A psychiatrist, hired last year by her attorneys, said her symptoms were worse than the typical rape victim's.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 9, 2007 01:44 PM
Posted to Courts in general