McDonald’s ordered to pay $27M in deaths of teens

BRYAN, Texas (AP) — A Texas jury ordered McDonald’s to pay $27 million in actual damages to the families of two teenagers killed in a car accident while en route to a hospital after a fight outside the fast-food restaurant.

In a statement, McDonald’s said it will appeal the verdict.

A release from the attorney representing the families of 18-year-old Denton James Ward of Flower Mound and 19-year-old Lauren Bailey Crisp of Dripping Springs said McDonald’s lax security led to their deaths in 2012 in College Station.

The two were with another couple when they stopped at the restaurant. The young men were beaten by a mob in the parking lot. Their girlfriends tried to get them to a hospital but the driver ran a red light and was hit by a pickup, killing Crisp.

The release says evidence at the trial showed police were called more than 20 times to break up fights at the restaurant in the year leading up to the incident. The families believed McDonald’s should have provided better security at the restaurant.

Witnesses testified that Ward died in the parking lot after being kicked and stomped on by as many as 20 attackers, according to the release. McDonald’s maintained that Ward died in the car wreck that followed, and that the company wasn’t responsible for the teens’ safety.

One of the attackers was sentenced to 90 days in jail for assaulting Ward’s male friend. No other arrests were made.

Police in College Station testified they regularly went to the McDonald’s to stop fights and disperse very large crowds in early morning hours on weekends. Despite officers’ testimony, two former McDonald’s managers working that night at the restaurant told jurors they weren’t aware of any problems.

“The night these two kids died, this was a dangerous location, and McDonald’s knew it,” plaintiff’s attorney Chris Hamilton said in the release. “Yet they did nothing to prevent their senseless deaths.”

In its statement, McDonald’s expressed sympathy for the families of the dead and injured. Nevertheless, “We respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict and will be appealing the decision,” the statement concluded.

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