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Closings are Today in Hoax Trial

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by becvan, Oct 3, 2007.

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  1. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt! Premium Member

    *this is truly insane, this company should be criminally charged!*

    Closings are today in hoax trial
    Final arguments set in suit against McDonald's

    By Andrew Wolfson
    The Courier-Journal

    After 18 days of trial, the fiercely litigated case pitting hoax victim Louise Ogborn against the McDonald's Corp. is expected to go to a jury tomorrow, after today's closing arguments.

    A Bullitt County jury composed mostly of women will be asked to decide whether the $59 billion fast-food company should pay the former $6.35-an-hour crew member for being detained, strip-searched and sexually assaulted at its Mount Washington restaurant three years ago.

    If it does, it will then decide how much of the $200 million her lawyers have asked for should be awarded in damages.

    The same jury will consider whether to give up to $50 million to Donna Summers, the assistant manager convicted of unlawful imprisonment for leading the search at the direction of a caller pretending to be a police officer.

    Both women claim McDonald's failed to warn them that the hoax caller was on the loose, even though the company knew he had perpetrated the same scam at dozens of its franchises and company-owned stores.

    McDonald's says Ogborn never would have been searched and sexually humiliated if not for the caller and a series of mistakes and poor judgment by others, including its assistant managers and Ogborn -- -- all three of whom the company claims failed to heed policies that should have prevented the incident.

    The trial has been one of Kentucky's most closely watched civil cases. But Senior Judge Tom McDonald has barred the parties and counsel from commenting on the evidence or how they think the jury has perceived it. McDonald's lawyers have even refused to spell the names of its witnesses for reporters.

    Attorneys who aren't involved but have followed the trial through news accounts said it hasn't gone well for McDonald's.

    "Their defense was that it wasn't their fault -- it was everybody's else fault," said Wendi Wagner, who formerly represented Summers and watched some testimony in person. "They should have said they did the best they could and maybe that wasn't enough, and acknowledged responsibility."

    The facts were not in much dispute -- the strip search and its aftermath were captured on a surveillance video. McDonald's experts conceded that Ogborn suffered major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after her ordeal, in which she was detained for 3½ hours, spanked and forced to perform sodomy.

    But the experts differed sharply on whether Ogborn's injuries are permanent.

    Testifying for nearly an entire day, Ogborn tearfully told how she is still so shaken that she changes her clothes under the covers and has lost her faith in religion because she was so angry with God for letting the hoax happen.

    McDonald's lead counsel, W.R. "Pat" Patterson, tried to get the jury to focus on the positive.

    "You have a boyfriend who loves you, you have a good job and you have a lot of friends there who support you, don't you," he asked.

    "Yes, sir," Ogborn replied.

    McDonald's tried to show the jury that there were "memos flying around everywhere" about the hoax calls, as Patterson put it, but its witnesses conceded that none got to the Mount Washington store.

    The company claimed a voice-mail message sent to the store and other restaurants would have been passed on to Summers and assistant manager Kim Dockery at their next regularly scheduled meeting with their manager, but "lightning struck first."

    That defense, however, seemed to backfire earlier this week when Dockery, who still works for McDonald's at a Hillview restaurant, said there were no such meetings. And the manager, Lisa Siddons, acknowledged she forgot about the voice mail because it was vaguely worded and she didn't think it was important.

    Attorneys outside the case say McDonald's lawyers probably will argue in their closing this morning that the company's effort to warn employees about the hoaxes -- even if they ultimately failed -- show that punitive damages for grossly negligent conduct aren't warranted.

    Ogborn's lawyers, Ann Oldfather and Kirsten Daniel, other attorneys say, likely will point to the company's conduct after Ogborn's ordeal.

    They have argued that McDonald's concealed evidence of other hoaxes at its stores and that it stood silent during the criminal trial of suspected hoax caller David R. Stewart when his lawyer suggested that Ogborn may have been in cahoots with the caller.

    McDonald's claim that it cooperated with police was undercut yesterday when Ogborn's lawyers played a video deposition of Mount Washington Detective Buddy Stump, who told the jury that the company refused to give him an address for an employee and erroneously told him the man was no longer working at the store.

    Stump also said the company refused to turn over records detailing hoaxes at its other stores, including phone logs that could have led to the caller.

    Ogborn's lawyers also have shown that an unnamed McDonald's manager altered Ogborn's time records to show she was working at the time of the incident, allegedly to bolster the company's defense that she was on the clock and therefore barred from suing the company under Kentucky's worker's compensation law.

    But managers acknowledged that Ogborn wasn't working while she was being stripped and sexually abused. McDonald's said the records were innocently changed to ensure that Ogborn was paid.

    Some of the corporation's witnesses offered testimony that may have harmed its defense last week.

    They included maintenance man Thomas Simms, who is illiterate and testified that McDonald's wrote false information into his statement; and Kent Kramer, its corporate representative, who initially told the jury that Ogborn was to blame for failing to say "no" to the search under the company's zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse.

    "So you are prepared to say to this jury that she was at fault?" Oldfather challenged him.

    "No," he answered, after initially avoiding the question.

    Ogborn's witnesses also presented testimony that might not have helped her.

    A plaintiff's expert on corporate security, Ralph Witherspoon, prompted titters from the jury when he admitted his only experience in the restaurant industry was a summer job as a teenager.

    Trying to deflect McDonald's efforts to label him a hired gun, Witherspoon, who was paid $12,000 for his work, told Patterson that he would have offered the same testimony if McDonald's had retained him.

    "Don't worry about that," Patterson said. "We never would hire you."

    The jury erupted into laughter.
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  3. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt! Premium Member

    Ky. Jury Deciding McDonald's Case

    By BRETT BARROUQUERE – 1 hour ago

    SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A jury on Thursday began deliberating the case of woman who said she was forced to strip in a McDonald's back office at the behest of a caller posing as a police officer.

    Louise Ogborn, 21, is suing the fast-food giant, accusing it of failing to warn her and other employees about the hoaxer, who had already struck other McDonald's stores and other fast-food restaurants across the country.

    Ogborn is seeking $200 million in compensatory and punitive damages. McDonald's has said Ogborn is responsible for whatever damages she suffered for not realizing it was a hoax. After a four-week trial, the jury starting deliberations Thursday.

    After about two hours of deliberations, jurors asked to review some of the evidence.

    Judge Thomas McDonald said he would allow jurors to see a copy of the employee handbook that Ogborn signed, but denied requests to review a map showing the locations where other hoax calls were received and a timeline of events.

    The jury forewoman also told the judge that one juror wanted to see a clip of the security video taken of the strip search. McDonald directed jurors to review other evidence first, but said if there were still questions, he would allow the jury to view the video clip.

    Ogborn was 18 and working at a McDonald's in April 2004 when she was forced to strip after a man called the store, claiming he was investigating a theft. At one point during the 3 1/2-hour search, the assistant manager's boyfriend was left to handle the phone call.

    Donna Jean Summers, the assistant manager, was convicted of unlawful imprisonment. Her former fiancee, Walter Nix Jr., is serving a 5-year sentence for sexual abuse and other crimes.

    Summers and Kim Dockery, who also was an assistant manager at the restaurant, are named as defendants in Ogborn's civil suit. Summers also has sued McDonald's and is asking the jury to award her $50 million.

    A Florida man, David Stewart, was acquitted last year on charges of impersonating an officer, soliciting sodomy and soliciting sexual abuse in the incident.

    During the trial, jurors watched more than an hour of a security video of the hoax call. On the video, a nude Ogborn is shown performing sex acts on herself and Nix.

    Ogborn's attorney, Ann Oldfather, asked Ogborn why she simply didn't leave the manager's office at some point during the assault, particularly when she was left alone.

    "I was scared, and I was petrified," Ogborn said. "I didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't know if this was my last day on Earth."

    During closing arguments on Wednesday, McDonald's attorney, W.R. "Pat" Patterson, said McDonald's is a good corporate citizen that cannot be held responsible for mistakes made by employees.

    "McDonald's is not the evil empire they'll make it out to be," Patterson said. "It should not be punished by giving them millions of dollars."

    Summers' attorney, Glenn Cohen, said McDonald's made multiple mistakes in not sufficiently warning managers and said the restaurant chain's claim that it couldn't tell all 800,000 employees about the hoax isn't believable.

    "They get the word out when there is a McRib special," Cohen said. "They get the word out on how to detect a counterfeit bill. They certainly can get the word out on that."
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