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HIV-positive man
wins in McDonald's discrimination case

HIV-positive man
wins in McDonald's discrimination case

A Cleveland jury has ruled that McDonald's Corp. discriminated against a restaurant manager who claimed he was forced out of his job after the company learned he is HIV-positive. The jury awarded Russell Rich of Akron, Ohio, $490,000 in damages in the second trial on his claim against the fast-food chain. Rich, 41, won $5 million in a 2001 trial, but that verdict was overturned on appeal, based on faulty jury instructions from the judge.

Rich's lead attorney, Paige Martin, said she would appeal the amount of the damages based on alleged errors by the judge in the latest case, retired appeals court judge John T. Patton. She said the errors included the failure to let the jury decide to award more damages based on costly state-provided prescription coverage that would be lost with a higher income. But beyond the damages issue, "I'm delighted the jury found McDonald's discriminated against my client a second time," Martin said.

McDonald's officials said the company might appeal. "We are clearly disappointed with the jury's verdict in this case," spokesman Bill Whitman said. "As we have stated from the beginning of this case, Mr. Rich's allegations are baseless and without merit."

Rich started working the cash register at a franchised McDonald's at age 13 and put in 21 years with the hamburger giant, eventually becoming manager of a restaurant that McDonald's owns. Then, he contends, he was pressured to resign in 1997 because he is HIV-positive. Left without health insurance, Rich said he nearly died from the illness.

Lawyers for Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's said earlier the company was open to settling the case. But Martin called the company's $300,000 offer inadequate. (AP)

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