A Mississippi appeals court has determined that neither McDonald’s Corp. nor
one of its franchisees could be held liable for injuries allegedly resulting from
a spatula-wielding cashier’s response to a dispute with a customer. Parmenter v. J&B Enters., Inc. No. 2010-CA-01251 (Miss. Ct. App., decided February 21, 2012).

Affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and directed verdict in
favor of the defendants, the court determined that McDonald’s did not exercise
the requisite level of control over the employee to be liable under the doctrine
of respondeat superior and that the employee was not acting within the scope
of her employment when she engaged in the altercation, thus rendering the
franchisee not liable under the same doctrine.

The plaintiff also brought claims of negligent hiring and training, and the
appeals court found insufficient evidence to support either claim. The court
further ruled that the trial court properly disqualified the plaintiff’s witness as
an expert witness regarding proposed testimony about post traumatic stress
disorder.

The incident giving rise to the dispute was described by the trial court as follows:

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
Mac 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 were exchanged, the exact nature of which are 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.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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