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Filed under: Fraud and Deception

Ogborn gets $6.1 million in strip-search lawsuit
Verdict called ‘vindication’ in McDonald’s case

by Andrew Wolfson
The Courier-Journal
October 6, 2007

Ogborn was one of dozens of victims of a hoax caller who over more than a decade duped managers at as many as 160 fast-food restaurants and other stores into strip-searching and sexually humiliating employees.

bilde-200.jpgAfter deliberating for 13 hours over two days, a Bullitt Circuit Court jury yesterday awarded Louise Ogborn $6.1 million — including $5 million in punitive damages — in her strip-search hoax lawsuit against the McDonald’s Corp.

Ogborn, 21, burst into tears when the verdict was announced, then hugged her mother and grandparents.

She told reporters she felt relieved the case was over and plans to use the money to eventually go to law school.

“She wants to right wrongs,” said her lead counsel, Ann Oldfather.

Ogborn, who worked as a $6.35-an-hour crew member at McDonald’s Mount Washington store, was detained, stripped and sexually assaulted on April 9, 2004, at the behest of a caller who pretended he was a police officer and accused her of stealing a customer’s purse.

In her suit against McDonald’s, Ogborn had sought $200 million, but Oldfather called the verdict a “resounding vindication” and a “total rejection” of the company’s claim it had no responsibility for Ogborn’s ordeal and that of victims of strip-search hoaxes at 40 of its other restaurants.

“We think this is a great day for employee safety in Kentucky,” Oldfather said. “When McDonald’s has to choose between its brand image and employee safety, they had better choose employee safety.”

McDonald’s spokesman William Whitman issued a statement yesterday saying the corporation was “evaluating our legal options, including an appeal of this decision.”

“As we’ve stated previously, this malicious hoax was perpetrated by individuals who do not represent our brand. What happened to Louise Ogborn was wrong, and should never happen to anyone,” the statement said.

McDonald’s lead counsel, W.R. “Pat” Patterson, also said he was disappointed with the verdict.

The jury of eight women and four men also awarded $1.1 million, including $1 million in punitive damages, to former McDonald’s assistant manager Donna Summers, who led the search of Ogborn.

Summers had said she was forced to accept a criminal conviction of unlawfully imprisoning Ogborn because McDonald’s failed to warn her and other employees about strip-search hoax calls that had plagued its restaurants and other fast-food chains for 10 years. Read the rest of the story here.

Reporter Brandy Warren contributed to this story.

Related links:

A hoax most cruel, The Courier-Journal, October 9, 2005, which details the initial incident as well as how the supposed perpetrator was caught

ABC Primetime Live video, which includes actual surveillance footage from the incident