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Thursday, October 4, 2007

McDonald's Sued Again: Hoaxer Gets Teen Employee Strip Searched by Phone

This incident occurred in 2004, but it is in the news today as the jury is now deliberating.

The best explanation of what happened is in this ABC Report, shown in a Youtube video posted by user Nofilterpaul3.

I could say, yet again, that common sense has died, but that seems so inadequate in expressing the scope of the stupidity and sheer depravity involved in this incident.

How an adult in a management position could NOT know a police officer would NOT CALL and ask civilians to be involved in investigating a case is beyond me. How an adult could NOT know that a police officer is not allowed to involve civilians in such a manner, would be jeaopardizing the case by the call and involving civilians, and would never ask civilians to perform a strip search, is beyond me.

In the video it looks to me like Mr Nix is not concerned about the legitimacy of the caller as he is getting some free entertainment. Why Ms Summers was not concerned (which is clear on the video tape, her casual entrances and exits, and the fact she allowed it to go on so long without questioning it)boggles my mind.

Ms Ogborn cried and complained about the situation. Ms Summers did nothing to stop it or check it out. A second employee, the young man called in to 'watch' Ms Ogborn complained to Ms Summers that it was wrong. She still did nothing. It was only after a THIRD employee (the maintenance man) said something to Ms Summers about the absurdity of the situation that she felt prompted to end it.

I am all for limiting lawsuits against big companies as I think too much stupidity is rewarded (i.e. putting a cup of hot coffee between your legs). In this case, I agree that the manager, Donna Summers and her now former-fiancee', Walter "Wes" Nix, Jr., should be held responsible, as should the hoax caller, David Stewart.

I do not agree that McDonald's should be held liable for the actions of those individuals; however, I do agree that they had an ethical responsibility to alert all the stores in the chain of the hoax, which had happened previously at other of their stores.

They absolutely have reliable means of communicating quickly with all of their stores about sales, policies, etc. There is no reason why they could not and should not have sent out a memo alerting their stores.

While lawyers are typically classed as 'ambulance chasers' looking for big bucks any way they can get them, they also have to formulate a strategy for helping their client to recover some damage money. Filing suits for huge amounts of money can result in smaller but still large settlements without going to court. This is what many attorneys count on.

If I understand this story correctly, there is also a civil suit pending against Ms Summers and Mr Nix, who have both already been convicted for the incident. The hoax caller, David Stewart, was acquitted in the criminal case; and if I understand correctly, is NOT named in the civil suit, even though he is the instigator behind the incident and the director of all that happened to Ms Ogborn.

How does the caller get off, and the manager and her fiancee get convicted? They were involved in ONE incident, he was behind multiple incidents/attempts. Why are they named in the civil suit, and yet the instigator of it all is not?

Ms Summers is also suing McDonald's over the incident. Since she is an obvious liar (watch the ABC report), and it was not HER who was victimized, I hope the case gets thrown out. McDonald's trusted her to watch out for their restaurant and the employees there. She did neither. Maybe they should sue HER for negligence. Plus, she brought a non-employee into the back office area which may be against company policy. If they look at it, I am sure they can find multiple incidences of HER negligence and violations of company policies in this case.

Again, I believe McDonald's ethically had a responsibility to alert their stores, but ultimately they are NOT responsible for the choices and actions of Ms Summers, Mr Nix, and Mr Stewart.

I feel very badly for Ms Ogborn and hope that she can move forward from this incident in a positive manner at some point. I hope that her civil suits end in her favor. I hope at some point Mr Stewart is held accountable for what he did.

This case has driven home to me the need to make sure my teen knows beyond any shadow of any doubt that he has rights and if he ever thinks an adult is violating them he has every right to say 'no' and leave. Better to be safe than sorry.

CASE UPDATE 10/05/2007:
Ms Ogborn was awarded $6.1 Million in damages.

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