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McDonald’s Patron Beat With Spatula Loses Suit

(CN) - McDonald's cannot be sued because one of its cashiers beat a customer with a spatula, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled.

Kerri Parmenter and her cousin went to McDonald's in Holly Springs, Miss., on Aug. 11, 2000. Annoyed with waiting to claim their drive-thru order, the women entered the restaurant.

Parmenter got into a verbal duel with cashier Kesha Jones, later admitting that she told Jones, "Bitch, you need to need to get out of my face."

Jones complied, but she soon returned with a spatula and whacked Parmenter across the head, cheek and arm.

An ensuing lawsuit in Marshall County Circuit Court resulted in a grant of summary judgment to McDonald's and a directed verdict for store owner J&B Enterprises. Various parties were dismissed from the case up to that point, but the court notes that Parmenter never filed claims for assault, battery or intentional tort, nor did she name Jones as a defendant.

Marshall County Judge Henry Lackey's delight with the case is apparent in the 2007 summary judgment order.

"It is unclear to the court the exact cause for plaintiff's displeasure, whether the Big Mack (sic) was soggy, the fries limp, or the coffee cold, but in any event, plaintiff was unhappy and apparently voiced her annoyance to an employee who was engaged as a cashier," Lackey wrote. The decision also states that the employee used the metal spatula "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."

Last week, the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed.

"Based on the facts of this case, McDonald's cannot be held liable for the actions of Jones under the doctrine of respondeat superior because McDonald's was not a master or employer of Jones," Judge Ermea Russell wrote for a three-judge panel.

Jones' employer, J & B Enterprises, was also not liable because Jones had acted outside the scope of her employment, the 19-page decision states.

"Jones' act of hitting Parmenter was motivated by personal animosity and anger, presumably from Parmenter calling Jones a 'bitch,' and Jones was never vested with any duty on that day other than working the cash register," Russell wrote.

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