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Woman awarded $6.1M in hoax

Louise Ogborn
Louise Ogborn

SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. — A jury awarded $6.1 million Friday to a woman who was forced to strip for a search in a McDonald's back office after someone called the restaurant posing as a police officer reporting a theft.

Louise Ogborn, who was 18 during the 3 1/2-hour ordeal, was forced to undress and perform sexual acts with the boyfriend of a former assistant manager at the restaurant while the man was on the phone with the bogus caller, according to a surveillance video shown to jurors during the four-week trial.

Ogborn, now 21, sued McDonald's Corp., claiming the fast-food giant failed to warn her and other employees about the caller who already struck other McDonald's stores and other fast-food restaurants across the country. She sought $200 million in damages, but McDonald's argued the company was not responsible and was being sued because of its deep pockets.

The jury award $5 million in punitive damages and about $1.1 million in compensatory damages.

Juror Kay Parrish told reporters the amount awarded will enable Ogborn to "live well the rest of her life" and "put all this behind her."

A teary Ogborn hugged relatives after the verdict. She said she planned to use some of the money to attend law school.

"Louise has stood up for what happened to her and what McDonald's failed to do for three-and-a-half years, and this jury just vindicated her completely," said her attorney, Ann Oldfather.

McDonald's was evaluating whether to appeal the decision, a spokesman said.

"While we are disappointed with the verdict, we remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our employees and provide them with a safe and respectful workplace," said William Whitman, a spokesman for McDonald's USA.

The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse. Ogborn's name, however, has appeared in numerous newspaper and broadcast stories with her permission.

The caller to the Mount Washington restaurant impersonated a police officer when he gave a description of a young, female employee accused of stealing from a customer, the lawsuit said. According to testimony, Ogborn fit the description, and the caller instructed an employee to conduct the search.

Donna Summers, a former McDonald's assistant manager who also sued the fast-food chain, led the strip search at the direction of the caller. Summers and Kim Dockery, another assistant manager, were named as defendants in Ogborn's suit, but the jury ruled they did not have to pay any damages.

Oldfather said Summers and Dockery were duped by the caller.

"Everybody is still suffering because of this, and now maybe McDonald's will suffer a little bit in the pocketbook," Oldfather said.

In deciding compensatory damages, the jury placed half the blame on McDonald's and the other half on the unnamed caller.

A Florida man, David Stewart, was acquitted last year on charges of making the hoax call. Police have said the calls stopped after Stewart's arrest.

Summers was placed on probation for a misdemeanor conviction in the case. Her former fiance, Walter Nix Jr., is serving five years in prison for sexually abusing Ogborn during the ordeal.