Duty to Protect Workers of a Franchisee When the Company's Security Manager Also Served As the Franchisee's Security Supervisor

In Martin v. McDonald's Corp., 213 Ill. App. 3d 487, 572 N.E.2d 1073, 157 Ill. Dec. 609 (1991), McDonald's appealed from a judgment entered following a trial. The plaintiffs were: (1) two workers who were assaulted when a restaurant owned by a McDonald's franchisee was robbed and; (2) the parents of another worker, who was murdered during the robbery. McDonald's asserted, as it does now, that it had no duty to protect the workers, because they were employed not by McDonald's but by its franchisee. McDonald's contended that it had no special relationship with the victims that would give rise to a duty of care. The Martin court upheld the judgment, reasoning that McDonald's had voluntarily assumed a duty to the victims. The court noted that, although the law did not impose a duty on McDonald's to protect the employees of its franchisees from harm, McDonald's had recognized the threat of armed robberies and the importance of security in restaurants. McDonald's had formed a department or unit to deal with security problems and prepared a "bible" for restaurant security operations. McDonald's employed a regional security manager who served as the franchisee's security supervisor, and he "undertook not only the obligation to check for security problems, but also to communicate to the store management what the security policies were and to 'follow-up' to be certain that the problems had been corrected and the 'recommended' security procedures 'followed.'" Martin, 213 Ill. App. 3d at 491.