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29/04/03 . n/a . Sacramento Bee . USA
Jury awards former franchise owner $16.5 million in McDonald's suit
POMONA, Calif. (AP) - A jury has awarded a former McDonald's franchise owner $16.5 million, agreeing with her claims that the fast-food giant defrauded her when it pressured her to sell her outlets.
Sandra Darling, 58, of Newport Beach, was awarded $6.5 million in compensatory damages on Monday and $10 million in punitive damages Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
"She feels vindicated," said her attorney, George Knopfler.
McDonald's spokesman William Whitman said the company would appeal. "The facts and the law simply do not support her claims," he said.
Knopfler alleged that McDonald's wanted to force out Darling, who had six well-performing Southern California in the early 1990s, because she criticized some of its policies.
Her suit contended that by the time her franchise renewal came up, the company had instituted a policy giving it the option of repurchasing the highest-performing franchises.
The corporation refused to back loan applications, lowered Darling's store quality ratings and opened competing restaurants, Knopfler claimed.
Darling sold her remaining franchises in 1998 and sued in 2001.