Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Try McDonald's wrongful death case again, judge rules in Land O'Lakes case

DADE CITY — Circuit Judge Susan Gardner on Friday threw out the verdict in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a man who died in a McDonald's parking lot brawl.

A jury awarded Wayne and Cathy Makowski $1 million in the trial last month, finding that the franchise owner of the Land O'Lakes McDonald's restaurant and the shopping center where it sits on U.S. 41 were negligent in allowing an unsafe environment at the 24-hour drive-through.

But in granting a new trial Friday, the judge said the totality of evidence in the trial supported the defendants, who had contended the death was the result of grown men drinking alcohol and making bad decisions.

Anthony Makowski, 21, died April 24, 2005, after getting into an argument with another patron at the drive-through. The argument turned into a brawl and Makowski was suffocated in a choke hold.

The Makowskis' attorneys argued that plaza owner B and B Cash Grocery Stores and Brickman Management, which owns the McDonald's, were obligated to hire off-duty police officers to maintain a safe climate in the parking lot that attracted late-night partiers.

Based on the raucous atmosphere, the plaintiffs said, the business owners should have foreseen the kind of violence that led to Makowski's death.

Gardner said that she erred in deciding before the trial that Martin Robles-Taylor, the man who fought Makowski, would not be listed as one of the parties responsible for the death.

That left the jury to determine who among McDonald's, the plaza owner and Makowski himself were responsible, and to what degree.

Robles-Taylor was not criminally charged in the case after prosecutors ruled it "excusable homicide."

Gardner decided to exclude him under the principle that to list the person who committed the homicide would sway the jury to find no responsibility on anyone else's part.

Friday, she said Robles-Taylor should have been on the jury verdict form because "there was no evidence that (he) knew or should have known that the behavior he engaged in was certain to cause death."

The case, which stretched over two weeks, was highly emotional and contentious.

The Makowskis wept on the witness stand over the death of their only child. The attorneys fought over the smallest of details. When the jurors returned with their verdict, several walked into the courtroom crying.

Cathy Makowski testified she would use any monetary award to set up a foundation in her son's name to help other people.

But defense attorney Steven Ngo argued Friday that was one of many features of the trial that amounted to "unfair prejudice" against his clients and called it "a play for sympathy."

The Makowskis were not in court Friday. Their attorney, Curt Obront, said he will appeal the decision granting a new trial.

"We'll persevere," he said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Try McDonald's wrongful death case again, judge rules in Land O'Lakes case 07/10/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 11, 2009 7:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A trip down memory lane of Bucs' preseason expectations

    Bucs

    With HBO's Hard Knocks in town and the Bucs opening training camp Friday with their highest expectations in a decade, here's a look back at Tampa Bay's preseason expectations since their last playoff appearance in 2007 — and the results.

    2008

    Jameis Winston and running back Peyton Barber celebrate a touchdown last season against the 49ers. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Boy Scouts apologize over Trump's remarks at jamboree

    National

    Facing an angry backlash from parents and former members, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America apologized on Thursday for political remarks made by President Donald Trump at the organization's national jamboree this week, during which the commander-in-chief crowed over his election victory, attacked the news …

    President DonaldTrump, front left, gestures as former boys scouts, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, watch at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean, W.Va. Boy Scouts president Randall Stephenson told the Associated Press on Wednesday, July 26, in his first public comments on the furor over President Donald Trump's speech on Monday that he'd be "disingenuous" if he suggested he was surprised by the Republican president's comments. [Associated Press]
  3. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports

    Airlines

    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]
  4. Hit-run driver who refused to leave van threatened to shoot, Hillsborough deputies say

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eddie Carly Colon Soto peeked his head out the broken side window of his van as a SWAT team closed in.

    The driver of this van tried to flee the scene of a crash in north Tampa Thursday morning until he could travel no farther, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. Then he refused to leave the van and threatened sheriff's deputies, they said. [TONY MARRERO   |   Times]
  5. Get the latest Tampa Bay Buccaneers news delivered daily to your email inbox

    Bucs

    They narrowly missed the playoffs by thismuch.

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) after they connected for a touchdown during a win over the Seattle Seahawks in November in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]