Tort Law

$6.1 M Award in McDonald's Strip Search

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A Kentucky jury has awarded $6.1 million to a young McDonald’s employee who was pressured by a supervisor into cooperating with a strip search and bizarre requests made over the telephone by a male caller pretending to be a police officer investigating a theft.

Louise Ogborn, who was 18 at the time of the 2004 incident, was awarded $1.1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages today by a Bullitt County, Ky., jury, ABC News said. She reportedly was traumatized by the strip-search experience, which included a sexual assault by another individual, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Her case against her employer was based on a duty-to-warn theory of liability: Ogborn’s lawyers contended that McDonald’s didn’t effectively alert its workers that such a telephone scam might be attempted, “even though the caller had successfully pulled off the same scam at dozens of its other franchises across the country,” ABC reports. McDonald’s counsel said poor judgment by restaurant management was the cause of the incident.

“Before closing arguments, the judge told the jury that it may return punitive damages against McDonald’s Corp. if it acted ‘in reckless disregard for the safety,’ security and well-being of others, including Ogborn,” ABC says.

“The jurors divided the blame equally for the incident between McDonald’s and the hoax caller who pretended he was a police officer,” writes the Courier-Journal.

Assistant manager Donna Summers, who played a leading role in responding to the caller’s directions, was fired and charged with unlawful imprisonment, for which she was sentenced to probation. She, too, sued McDonald’s and was awarded $100,000 in compensatory and $1 million in punitive damages, ABC says.

Ogborn, now 21, says she plans to use the money to go to law school, the Courier-Journal reports.

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