Suit: Olney KFC employee pistol-whipped customer who couldn’t pick a side dish

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As hilariously reported by Dana DiFilippo on Philly.com yesterday, a federal judge ruled in favor of fried chicken behemoth KFC last week in a suit claiming that an employee at its Olney location pistol-whipped a customer who couldn’t make up his mind about what side dishes to order.

According to court documents, Edward Harris drove to the KFC at 716 Adams Ave one October night in 2007 to “take advantage of a chicken special they were running at that time,” offering a ten-piece bucket of chicken, biscuits and two sides for $8.

Harris placed his order with a cashier, but hesitated when selecting his two sides. When a second employee, identified as Michael Henry, told him to “hurry up,” Harris replied that he was not “dealing” with him because he was being served by someone else.

Henry allegedly became enraged and said, “Well, do you want the f—ing chicken or not?” and the original employee stepped back “with a look like ‘I’m out of it,’” according to court papers. When Harris replied that he didn’t want to order if he had to deal with Henry, he claimed the man muttered, “I will kick your ass,” and showed him a gun under the counter.

Another employee allegedly yelled at Henry to not “do it like that, not here,” and Harris used the distraction as an opportunity to make a beeline for the exit. He said Henry chased him and, before he could leave, hit him with the gun in the left side of his face, causing him to lose consciousness.

Harris claimed he suffered a concussion, a cut on his lip that required eight stitches, “rattled” teeth, a black eye, a swollen jaw and a fractured wrist from the assault.

He sued on the grounds that KFC failed to properly supervise and train its
employees, conduct pre-hiring background investigations and to police their store locations.

But a judge found that the assault was motivated by personal malice unrelated to Henry’s job as a cashier and cook, stating in a memorandum that his actions “were outside the scope of his employment and so outrageous that KFC cannot be held liable.”

“Henry was in no way furthering his employe’s purpose by chasing Harris out of the restaurant and striking Harris in the face with a gun that Henry was not permitted to have at work,” the judge wrote.

The judge also determined that, though Henry had been found guilty of theft in 2001 and unauthorized use of a vehicle in 2003, KFC didn’t have a duty to conduct a criminal background check on non-management employees. Even if it did, the judge said, the company would have had no way of knowing that the man had a propensity for violence based on the two non-violent convictions.

“Simply stated, KFC did not expect Henry to pistol-whip a customer who hesitated when placing his order,” the judge wrote, ruling in favor of KFC last week.


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