Ohioan settles spitting suit with Pa. Burger King

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Associated Press

Posted on December 21, 2012 at 12:36 PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A black Ohio trucker has settled his federal civil rights lawsuit against a Burger King franchise in northwestern Pennsylvania where he contends a white employee spit on his Whopper Jr. in 2008. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Glenn Goodwin of Cleveland filed the civil rights lawsuit against Fast Food Enterprises (hash)3, which operated the restaurant along Interstate 90 in Fairview.

Burger King's attorneys had argued there's no proof of the spitting or that the worker was motivated by racial prejudice if the spitting occurred. Furthermore, the attorneys wanted the lawsuit thrown out, along with the burger — which a state trooper who arrived to take Goodwin's complaint that night did after examining the burger. The trooper reported finding saliva in the burger but didn't charge anyone because no DNA testing was done to determine if it belonged to a specific employee.

In refusing Burger King's request to dismiss the lawsuit in May, U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin in Erie wrote that it would be unfair to dismiss the lawsuit because the trooper, not Goodwin, was responsible for throwing away the burger — which would have been the key piece of evidence for both sides.

McLaughlin also said there was enough evidence to warrant a trial because "a reasonable jury could conclude that Caucasian customers at the Burger King restaurant received satisfactory food service while Plaintiff, the only minority person in the restaurant, did not."

Attorneys for both sides told the Erie Times-News (http://bit.ly/ZofxvT), which first reported the settlement Friday, they couldn't comment.

Goodwin's attorney, Timothy McNair, confirmed that in an email to The Associated Press. "The case is resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. The terms of settlement are confidential. We are unable to comment further," McNair wrote.

Burger King attorney Peter Skeel joined in that statement.

Goodwin, 47, said the incident happened early in the evening of Nov. 11, 2008, when he was on his way home from a freight-hauling job to Erie.

He said a female employee made his sandwich and wrapped it before sliding it down a metal chute so another server could give it to Goodwin. Instead, a male employee grabbed the sandwich and stood with his back to Goodwin while a manager stood by as if he, too, were trying to shield some action, Goodwin said.

Goodwin contends the manager said "nice" as the worker handled the sandwich.

His lawsuit said Goodwin immediately suspected the worker had spit in his food, but Goodwin took it to his truck anyway because he didn't believe anyone would do such a thing.

Goodwin returned to the restaurant and loudly cursed and complained before calling 911. He said he found saliva in his sandwich that seemed "extra wet" and smelled "disgusting," which he later explained in his pretrial deposition was the smell of bad breath.

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