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Ohio Court Reverses $5M McDonald’s Verdict

October 11, 2003

CLEVELAND (AP) _ An appeals court has overturned a $5 million verdict won by a former McDonald’s restaurant manager who claimed he was discriminated against because he has AIDS.

Russell Rich, 39, of Akron, claimed he had had been pressured to quit in October 1997 because of his illness. A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas jury awarded him damages in 2001.

A three-judge panel on Friday ordered the verdict thrown out and the case retried, saying McDonald’s did not get a fair trial.

Rich, who worked in McDonald’s restaurants for 20 years, didn’t receive any money from the award during the two years the case was being reviewed by the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals.

Rich’s lawyer, Paige Martin, plans to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

In a unanimous opinion, Judge Ann Kilbane wrote that retired Judge John Angelotta was wrong to reject a request by McDonald’s lawyers to read jury instructions and submit verdict questions proposed by the defense.

The appeals panel also said some of Angelotta’s instructions to the jury were incorrect and may have led the jury to a wrong decision.

McDonald’s Chicago-based lawyer Steven Catlett said the company is pleased with the decision and remains open to settling.

But Martin said McDonald’s $300,000 offer after the verdict was returned is inadequate.

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