Jury Orders McDonald’s to Pay $27 Million over Two Deaths

McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) lost a $27 million verdict in Texas regarding a claim that lax security at one of its restaurants led to the deaths of two teenagers. However, attorneys say the award most likely will not survive appeal.

The victims involved in this tragic case were Denton James Ward, 18, who was beaten to death by a mob at a McDonald’s in February 2012, and his girlfriend, Lauren Bailey Crisp, 19, who died in a traffic accident en route to a hospital.

The families of both teens sued McDonald’s, claiming the restaurant chain did not protect customers at its College Station, Texas, location even though local police had repeatedly been called to break up fights there. A jury at a Bryan, Texas state court just awarded the Ward family $16 million and the Crisp family $11 million. (The families never asked for punitive damages, which are awarded to “punish” the liable party).

The two teens were with another couple when they stopped at McDonald’s. The young men were beaten by a mob in the parking lot. Their girlfriends tried to get them to a hospital but the driver ran a red light and was hit by a pickup, killing Crisp.

Witnesses testified that Ward died in the parking lot after being kicked and stomped on by as many as 20 attackers, according to the release. McDonald’s contends that Ward died in the car wreck that followed, and that the company was not responsible for the teen’s safety.

The release states that evidence at the trial showed that police were called more than 20 times to break up fights at the restaurant in the year leading up to this incident. Both families believed that McDonald’s should have provided better security at the restaurant in light of the dangerous history they possessed.

One of the attackers was sentenced to 90 days in jail for assaulting Ward’s male friend. No other arrests were made.

Police in College Station testified that they regularly went to the McDonald’s to stop fights and disperse very large crowds during early morning hours on weekends. Despite officer’s testimony, two former McDonald’s managers working that night at the restaurant told jurors they were unaware of any problems.

McDonald’s said in a statement, “We respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict and will be appealing the decision.”

This case is the second legal setback for McDonald’s in two days. The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel has determined that McDonald’s has joint responsibility with restaurant owners for the treatment of employees. This decision could potentially disrupt the fast-food franchise system, making it easier for workers to unionize.

This verdict comes after McDonald’s publicly dealt with a health scare in China. After a local television station showed workers repackaging chicken and beef to change the ‘sell-by’ dates, a McDonald’s meat supplier in Shanghai recalled the products.

Do you think McDonald’s was negligent in the deaths of these two teenagers? Why would it take more than 20 calls to local police to break up fights before the lives of two young adults were taken?

Feel free to comment on this blog post. For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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