A $5 million verdict for a former Akron, Ohio, McDonald's employee who says he was discriminated against by the McDonald's fast-food chain because he is HIV-positive was thrown out by an appeals court on Friday, The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer reports. Russell Rich, 39, was awarded $5 million by a jury after a nine-day trial in 2001, during which the former restaurant manager said McDonald's management would allow him to work as a manager only if he turned over his medical records to the company and that he was disciplined for job abandonment when he was ill, was forced to work unreasonably long shifts, and was required to take an unpaid two-week leave of absence when he complained about his work schedule. The jury reportedly deliberated just three hours before reaching its verdict and awarding Rich $5 million in damages.
But a three-judge panel of the eighth Ohio district court of appeals on Friday ruled that McDonald's did not receive a fair trial, threw out the judgment, and ordered a new trial. The panel unanimously ruled that the judge in the original trial incorrectly rejected a request by McDonald's lawyers to read jury instructions and submit verdict questions requested by the defense. McDonald's lawyers said they were pleased with the appeals court decision and hoped to reach an out-of-court settlement with Rich. But Paige Martin, Rich's lawyer, said she plans to appeal to the Ohio supreme court.