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Judge allows wrongful-death suit against McD

WILKINSBURG Pa. A county judge has cleared the way for the family of a college student shot and killed while waiting in the drive-thru lane of a McDonald’s here to proceed with a wrongful-death lawsuit filed against brand parent McDonald’s Corp., according to a local news report.

The suit alleges that McDonald’s was negligent in the death seven years ago of Emil Sanielevici because it stopped posting security guards at a unit in a high-crime area of Penn Avenue, according to the story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Sanielevici was shot by Ronald Taylor, a local man who went on a rampage the morning of March 1, 2000, shooting five maintenance workers at his apartment building, killing one, and then entering a Burger King, where he fatally shot a 71-year-old former chaplain. According to the police, Taylor then started firing at a nearby McDonald’s, hitting two other people at the restaurant before he killed Sanielevici.

Police say the shootings were racially motivated. Taylor is black, and all of his victims were apparently white. He is currently awaiting execution for the murders, for which he was convicted in 2001.

McDonald’s had asked Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr., to dismiss the suit in part because the quick-service company could not have anticipated Taylor’s rampage. It also noted that Taylor went on the spree during the morning, when security guards would not have been on duty even if the restaurant had continued to use security forces. The unit had at one time employed off-duty police officers as security guards but later stopped, allegedly for cost reasons.

On Friday, Wettick denied McDonald’s request to throw out the case, clearing the way for a jury trial.

The action closely follows the decision by a Kentucky county jury to assess McDonald’s about $7.1 million in damages stemming from a hoax that occurred three years ago at a unit in Mount Washington, Ky. In that lawsuit, ex-employee Louise Ogborn was awarded $5 million in punitive damages and more than $1 million in compensatory payments for being strip-searched and forced to engage in sexual acts in April 2004 after a caller posing as a police officer said a customer’s purse had been stolen. The caller insisted that Ogborn be strip-searched. Assistant manager Donna Summer obliged, enlisting the assistance of her then-fiance, Walter Nix, Jr.

The jury decided that McDonald’s was in part responsible for the situation because it not had warned employees that similar hoax calls had been placed to several McDonald’s units and other quick-service restaurants.

Summer was later convicted of a misdemeanor because of the incident and placed on probation. The jury awarded her $1 million in punitive damages and $100,000 in compensation.

Nix is serving a five-year prison term for sexually abusing Ogborn.

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