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McDonald’s Points Fingers

Headlines will always sensationalize the amount one person had to pay another, but at the heart of this case were two teenagers killed in the prime of their lives, and a corporation recognized by every person on the planet that refused to accept responsibility for it.

The case against McDonald’s began as an insurance claim. Chris Hamilton was contacted by an attorney representing William and Nicole Crisp, whose 19-year-old daughter, Lauren, was killed in a car accident on February 18, 2012. As Chris listened, he learned that what had happened that night was much bigger than a traffic accident, and involved an incredible act of negligence by a multibillion dollar corporation.

What Happened

Before she died, Lauren Crisp was with her boyfriend, 18-year old Denton Ward. They and friends Tanner Giesen and Samantha Bean were walking through the parking lot of a McDonald’s in College Station, Texas, when Denton and Tanner were attacked by a mob of about 20 people. What caused the attack is unknown. What is known is that local police were called at least 40 times in the three years leading up to that night to break up fights at the same McDonald’s.

Denton and Tanner were hurt, so Nicole and Samantha did the only thing they could. They put them in their vehicle and drove to the hospital. Trying to get to the hospital as fast as she could, Samantha ran a red light and collided with a pickup truck. Both Lauren and Denton died in the crash.

Digging In

McDonald’s was aware that police were being called again and again to break up fights on their property. Installing cameras or hiring security guards could have kept this from happening, but they chose not to do that. In response to the accident, McDonald’s did what most corporations do in these situations: it denied any wrongdoing and pointed the finger at others. They argued that, while Denton and Tanner had been attacked on their property, they had been improperly served alcohol at a local bar beforehand, and that this contributed to the fatal injuries he and Lauren suffered in the accident on the way to the hospital.

The Trial

McDonald’s made this same argument when the case went to trial in 2014. Although one of the men involved in the attack testified otherwise, McDonald’s said cameras and security guards wouldn’t have stopped what happened. Former managers said they were unaware of any problems.

The trial lasted for nearly a week. The jurors reached a verdict in less than four hours. Together, the amount McDonald’s was ordered to pay to the families of Lauren Crisp and Denton Ward was the largest premises liability verdict in the history of the state.