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Illinois Federal Court Grants Summary Judgment Dismissing Claim that Franchisor Violated ADA by Not Serving Pedestrians at a Drive-Through

A federal court in Illinois granted summary judgment to McDonald’s on an ADA claim, finding the franchisor did not “operate” the franchised restaurants. Magee v. McDonald’s USA, LLC, 2021 WL 4552411 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 5, 2021). The court also found that the policy of not serving pedestrians at a drive through did not discriminate against Scott Magee, who is legally blind and does not drive. Magee alleged that McDonald’s discriminated against him in violation of the ADA. He also alleged that three franchised restaurants violated the ADA by excluding disabled, nondriving persons like himself from late-night food service, because they refused to serve him as a pedestrian in the drive-through lane.

The core issue on McDonald’s summary judgment motion was whether it exercised sufficient control over the restaurants in question to operate them, within the meaning of the ADA. The court found in McDonald’s favor, holding that it delegated late-night operational decisions to the franchisees, as neither the Franchise Agreement nor Operations and Training Manual mandated late-night service. Further, the court concluded that, even if McDonald’s could be deemed an operator of the restaurants, Magee was not discriminated against on the basis of his disability because all pedestrians, not just blind pedestrians, were unable to receive service through the late-night drive-through lane.

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The Franchise Memorandum is a collection of postings on summaries of recent legal developments of interest to franchisors brought to you by Lathrop GPM LLP. 

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