PORTLAND (AP) – A jury is hearing testimony in the case of a Portland man who claims he was beaten up by two employees of a fast-food restaurant after he argued with a server over the bill for two fish sandwiches and an order of chicken nuggets.

Kenneth Hanlon, 35, brought suit in Cumberland County Superior Court claiming he was thrown to the ground, punched, kicked and choked until he passed out. When police arrived, employees of the McDonald’s in Westbrook identified Hanlon as the aggressor and he was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct.

“It was a Happy Meal gone sad,” said Hanlon’s lawyer Daniel Lilley, explaining the case after court Monday.

Hanlon is suing the two employees who he says attacked him, the store’s manager, the franchise owner and McDonald’s International, its corporate parent. He is seeking unspecified damages that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, Lilley said.

Defense lawyers told the jury Monday that Hanlon bears some responsibility for what happened that night because he was belligerent with the employees.

Even if the employees went too far, they said, it wasn’t the company’s fault. The two employees who Hanlon said attacked him, Patricia Franks and J.D. Morin, were fired shortly after the incident. McDonald International has an agreement with its franchise owners that protects it from lawsuits like this one.

The confrontation developed after 10 p.m. on a Friday night in November 2001 after Hanlon and his wife Laurie stopped at the restaurant’s drive-through window to pick up some snacks for their teenage children who were skating at a roller rink, Lilley said.

Hanlon ordered some food and paid for it, but while he was waiting for it he felt uneasy. There were four or five teenagers behind the counter, not wearing uniforms and dancing. One of them, later identified as Franks, then 16, came up to the window and asked him to pay again. He explained that he had already paid and she handed him a bag.

“He doesn’t know who she is, where she is or what’s going on,” Lilley said. “So he asked for a receipt.”

After Franks said she couldn’t make a receipt and Hanlon asked for his money back, Franks started cursing at him and he began yelling back, Hanlon said.

The store manager, Jeanne Nielsen, told Franks to go home and tried to placate Hanlon.

She gave him his money back, but before he left the parking lot, Hanlon said Franks reached into the window of his truck and hit him in the face.

Hanlon and Franks started fighting, and Morin, who was Franks’ boyfriend, came out to help her. Nielsen called the police, and when they arrived the employees said Hanlon had attacked them. He was taken to the emergency room and charged with disorderly conduct.

Lilley said Hanlon was acquitted following a trial in District Court.

Hanlon claims McDonald’s is responsible for what happened, even though it has an agreement with Goble the franchise owner. The corporation owns the land that the restaurant is on, Lilley said, and exerts control over Goble and his employees, so it should also bear some responsibility when things go wrong.

The trial is expected to continue through Wednesday.

AP-ES-10-07-03 0217EDT



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