Thursday 16 August 2018

Teacher loses €75k defamation claim against McDonald's after 'greasy fries incident'

Christian Morris, of Seagrove, Claremont Road, Howth, Co. Dublin, leaving court after a Civil Court hearing. Pic: Collins Courts
Christian Morris, of Seagrove, Claremont Road, Howth, Co. Dublin, leaving court after a Civil Court hearing. Pic: Collins Courts

Ray Managh

A school teacher has lost a €75,000 damages claim for defamation of his character which he alleged took place in a McDonald’s Restaurant after he discarded napkins he used to wipe excess grease from his French Fries.

Christian Morris (44) of Seagrove, Claremont Road, Howth, Dublin, also failed in a claim against McDonald’s, Donaghmede, Dublin, for breach of duty towards him while he was a customer in the restaurant on 21st June 2015.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke told barrister Joe Jeffers, who appeared for McDonald’s, that the company was entitled to an order for costs against Mr Morris.

Mr Jeffers, who appeared with DFMG Solicitors, told the court that Mr Morris had failed to establish that McDonald’s, its security company or a member of its security staff had published any defamatory statements about him which had been denied.

Morris, who represented himself in his Circuit Civil Court claim, said he had bought food in the restaurant and the chips were so greasy that he had to wipe grease off them with paper napkins.  He said he had thrown the napkins onto another table and intended binning them later.

“The chips were less palatable than normal and I got some serviettes and wiped them, throwing the serviettes on a table next to me,” he said.

He said he had been approached by a security guard who ordered him to pick up his litter and stop throwing things around the restaurant.  When he had told her he would deal with his rubbish when he was ready she had ordered him: “Pick it up now.”

This had attracted the attention of a number of teenage boys in the restaurant who had called him “a paedophile and a faggot.” He had demanded and received his money back and had used his phone to take a video of what was happening.

The teenagers had left the restaurant but one came back in again and snatched his phone. He had unsuccessfully given chase but later his phone had been returned to him less the sim card and memory card.

The security guard concerned in the incident told the court Morris had become very “aggressive and demeaning” towards her. He had become very irate, and “yanked the tray off me and slammed it into the bin.”

Judge Groarke said Mr Morris’s claim had been entirely silent with regard to any words spoken or actions taken that might be considered defamatory of him.  The court had not heard any evidence of the publication of defamatory statements by the defendant or its agents.

“How can the defendants be responsible for what an entirely different third party may say about the plaintiff,” Judge Groarke said.

With regard to Morris’s claim for damages for breach of duty by allowing a young person back into the restaurant and stealing his phone, the judge said there had been nothing about the behaviour of the teenagers that would have merited the defendants locking the door against them.

“They may have been unruly, perhaps nasty, as children sometimes will be but I don’t believe there was an obligation on the security guard to lock the doors,” Judge Groarke said.

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