BROOKLYN (CN) – A disabled Army captain who was wounded in Iraq claims McDonald’s employees beat him with garbage can lids after he brought his service dog to the restaurant. Luis Montalvan says the attack came as he was photographing the restaurant after he repeatedly complained about the treatment he received there.
Montalvan says he became disabled after 17 years in the Army and began using a service dog named Tuesday in November 2008.
Montalvan says he was wounded with knives and hand grenades during his first tour of duty in Iraq, and developed post traumatic stress disorder, in addition to his spinal cord damage and brain injury. He was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars, according to his federal complaint.
He says that when he brought his dog Tuesday to McDonald’s, the employees told him he had to leave his “pet” outside.
Montalvan replied that Tuesday was a service animal, not a pet, as indicated by the bright red vest the dog wore. He says the employees continued to make him unwelcome and uncomfortable by hovering over him and glaring at him.
He says the rude treatment brought on a panic attack that hurt his performance on final exams at Columbia University, where he is enrolled in a master’s program in journalism.
Montalvan says he complained about the treatment he received, and McDonald’s area supervisor Claudia Alvarez apologized and said employees would receive training to help disabled customers.
Six weeks later Montalvan says he returned to the McDonald’s with Tuesday, but manager Carlos Sala said the dog was not allowed in the restaurant, despite a new sign welcoming service animals.
Montalvan says he explained that service animals are allowed in public restaurants under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but Sala said he was a new manager and had not been trained with on the ADA.
Two days later, Montalvan says returned to the restaurant to find that it had been shut down for health code violations. He says he took some photos of the place, and then unidentified McDonald’s employees beat him with garbage can lids, pinching a nerve that forced him to use a neck brace for 8 weeks.
Montalvan seeks punitive damages for ADA violations, discrimination, and assault and battery. He is represented by David Lackowitz with Gersten Savage.