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Opening statements held in lawsuit filed after teenage girl raped by McDonald's manager

Opening arguments held in local case with national and international implications
Opening arguments held in local case with national and international implications 02:32

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Opening statements were held in a case in Pittsburgh with national and international implications. 

Should the McDonald's Corporation be held liable for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in one of its franchise restaurants? On Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, McDonald's asked for the case to be thrown out. McDonald's USA said it is not responsible for what happens in its franchises, but the attorney for the girl said it should be held liable for her rape. 

The family of the girl filed suit against McDonald's USA and its franchisee, Rice Enterprises, which operates six McDonald's restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. The suit alleges both are responsible for the actions of the defendant, 42-year-old Walter Garner, who pleaded guilty to raping the girl in the bathroom of one of the restaurants.

Garner was hired as a manager even though he had served time for the indecent assault of a 10-year-old girl in 2003.

In court on Wednesday, McDonald's USA argued for the case against it to be dismissed, saying it is not liable for the management decisions and actions of its franchisees and there is no way the corporation could know of or foresee the actions of this manager.

But the girl's attorney, Alan Perer, said McDonald's mandates the control of its restaurants down to the amount of ketchup that is put on its hamburgers and is responsible for providing a safe environment for its workers. 

The case has national and international implications since 92 percent of McDonald's 38,000 restaurants are franchises.

"This is McDonald's global values, McDonald's global system. You don't have to worry if you send your daughter to go to work in a McDonald's in Timbuktu. It's going to be the same McDonald's that you get in Pittsburgh. You don't have to worry about her being abused or attacked or her safety. But when something happens at these stores, 'Oh, don't look at us.' It's hypocritical," Perer said.

The attorney for McDonald's USA had no comment leaving the courtroom on Wednesday. Judge Christine Ward said she would rule on the motion to dismiss at a later time. 

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