Appellate Court Finds McDonald's Liable for Fake Strip Search Incident

November 24, 2009 ( – A Kentucky appeals court has found McDonald’s Corp. is liable in the se.xual assault case of an employee detained by supervisors who were following the instructions of a prank caller pretending to be a police officer, Business Insurance reports.

The 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 Ogborn’s sexual harassment, false imprisonment, premise liability, and negligence claims (see McDonald’s Hit with $6.1M Jury Award in Fake Strip Search Incident).

Ogborn says she was detained in a back office at a Mount Washington, Kentucky, store in April 2004 after the hoax caller phoned the restaurant impersonating a police officer and provided a description of a young female employee who he said had stolen items from a customer. The phony caller demanded the woman be strip searched as part of the “investigation,” and Ogborn says that during the incident, which went on for more than three hours, she was strip searched and forced to perform sexual acts. The events were captured on surveillance video.

McDonald’s appealed the jury award, arguing, among other factors, that the exclusive remedy under workers compensation barred Ogborn’s lawsuit. However, the appeals court disagreed, finding that McDonald’s knew of 30 hoax telephone calls placed to its restaurants between 1994 and 2004 (see Strip Search Hoax Case Questions McDonald’s Role).

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 said, according to Business Insurance.