Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Poor pleading means no relief for spatula-battered McDonald's customer

    The following passage was written by retired circuit judge Henry Lackey in a case involving the Holly Springs McDonald's. The case is Parmenter v. J&B Enterprises. It's the type of legal writing that sticks with you.
    Facts in brief: Plaintiff Parmenter orders at drive-thru and becomes dissatisfied (I can sympathize so far). Enters restaurant and as part of argument with employee sez, “Bitch, you need to get out of my face.” Ms. Parmenter reportedly also used a racial slur, an epithet even.
    Following this, the McDonald's employee retreated to the kitchen where she took up a spatula. She did not, however, use it to flip burgers, but rather to whop Ms. Parmenter up side the head.
    Ms. Parmenter sued McDonald's and the franchise owner. She did not sue the spatula-wielding employee, nor did she claim assault, battery or any other intentional tort, cut rather negligent hiring, negligent supervision and so forth. This was likely a mistake.
    From Judge Lackey's order granting summary judgment in favor of McDonald's:
This dispute arose over an incident at the Golden Arches (McDonald[’]s) in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Apparently [p]laintiff, Kerri Parmenter, became upset over her victuals order and made inquiry about its condition. It is unclear to the [c]ourt the exact cause for [p]laintiff’s displeasure, whether the Big Mack was soggy, the fries limp, or the coffee cold, but in any event, [p]laintiff was unhappy and apparently voiced her annoyance to an employee who was engaged as a cashier. Apparently[,] harsh words we re exchanged, the exact nature of which a re unknown to the [c ]ourt at this time. It appears the employee took serious exception to [p]laintiff’ s inquiry, retreated to the recesses of the restaurant, retrieved a long cooking utensil which was referred to as a metal spatula[,] and used this instrument in a fashion contrary to its intended use or for which it was designed, but a use with which all mothers of young children are acquainted.

    I agree with the court's decision in this case. Plaintiff sought relief on the basis of negligent hiring, not for battery. On the downside, I disagree with Mississippi's "scope of employment" rulings, which tend to state that if an employee commits an intentional tort that goes against company policy, the employer shouldn't be held liable since they are acting outside of their "scope of employment" by breaking the rules. Mississippi is certainly in the minority of states on this, and Mississippi is wrong.
    If you've never visited the Holly Springs McDonald's, by all means drop by. There is no other like it.

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