Sonic Managers Clear Robbery Negligence Suit

     WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (CN) – A jury rejected negligence claims from a Sonic employee who claimed that she was fired after complaining about repeated robberies.
     Though the 2010 complaint identified four plaintiffs – two assistant managers and two cooks – only one of the plaintiffs ultimately brought her case to trial in Polk County’s 10th Judicial Circuit Court. The original complaint included claims against two restaurant managers and McClain Sonics, MHV Sonics and SDI of Winter Haven, which they identified as one of the largest franchise groups of Sonic Restaurants with more than 100 locations in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
     The complaint describes how the Winter Haven Sonic restaurant was robbed five times between July 2008 and June 2009. Employees said the restaurant owners and managers stymied police investigations, failed to implement proper safety measures, profited from the robberies and fired workers for complaining that they feared for their lives.
     Natalie Wallner, an assistant manager, had claimed that a robber in the second burglary cocked his gun and pressed it to her head as she unlocked the restaurant safe.
     She said the gunman told her: “Too late, bitch. You’re dead anyway, you took too long,” upon which she collapsed into a fetal position.
     When the police arrived, Sonic manager Pete Nighswonger told the officers to cite Wallner’s understandably upset father for trespass, according to the complaint.
     Wallner said she was one of 12 employees who signed a letter to Sonic after the fourth robbery, stating that they feared for their lives. When confronted about the letter by Nighswonger, Wallner said she would not back down and was immediately fired.
     After the case went to trial in late August, a jury rejected Wallner’s claim that the defendants negligently failed to provide a safe work place.
     There was no negligence that produced a legal cause of injury or loss or damage to Wallner, according to the Sept. 11 verdict.
     The filing clears SDI; McClain Sonics, which is identified as McClain McClain McClain Inc.; and the two managers, Dane Martin and Glen “Pete” Nighswonger.
     The docket does not explain what became of the claims against MHV, which moved for dismissal in 2010. Though the docket includes a notice of dismissal of two plaintiffs in March 2012, it does not describe what became of the third plaintiff, Shaun Rogers.

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