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FRANKFORT, Ky.—McDonald’s Corp. is liable in the sexual assault case of an employee detained by supervisors who were following the instructions of a prank caller pretending to be a police officer, a Kentucky appeals court has ruled.
Friday’s ruling in McDonald’s Corp. vs. Louise Ogborn upholds a jury award of $1.1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages for the plaintiff’s sexual harassment, false imprisonment, premise liability and negligence claims.
The ruling stems from a 2004 incident in which an unknown individual telephoned the Mount Washington, Ky., restaurant where Ms. Ogborn worked. He claimed to be a police officer investigating a purse or wallet theft.
During the three-hour ordeal, the caller convinced an assistant manager to take Ms. Ogborn’s clothes while she was held in a back office. The caller also convinced the assistant manager to recruit her fiancé to watch over Ms. Ogborn.
While the assistant manager left the room, the fiancé sexually assaulted Ms. Ogborn, court records state.
McDonald’s appealed the jury award. It argued, among other factors, that the exclusive remedy under workers compensation barred Ms. Ogborn’s lawsuit.
The appeals court disagreed. It found that McDonald’s knew of 30 hoax telephone calls placed to its restaurants between 1994 and 2004, including several calls to Kentucky restaurants, in which the caller convinced managers and employees to conduct strip searches and sexual assaults.
The evidence supports a reasonable conclusion that McDonald’s corporate management consciously decided not to warn and train store managers and employees about the calls, the appeals court found.