A man who accidentally left his mobile telephone in a branch of McDonald's is suing the fast-food chain after nude photos of his wife that had been stored in the device ended up on the internet. Philip Sherman says he was promised by staff at the burger restaurant in Fayette, Arkansas, that the handset would be turned off and securely stored until he could retrieve it.
Instead, he alleges that employees at the branch ended up rifling through his phone's memory, address book, text messages and library of images before posting pictures of his wife, Tina, online.
Next to the photographs, which were meant only for Mr Sherman's eyes, the miscreants added the McDonald's logo, together with its slogan "I'm lovin' it" and a caption describing Mrs Sherman as "hot like McDonald's' coffee". They also provided her name, address and contact details, prompting dozens of unwelcome letters, phone calls and emails that apparently forced the couple to move home.
The Shermans are seeking $3m (£2m) for emotional distress, embarrassment and damage to their reputations. They also allege loss of earnings, and want to reclaim the cost of their change of address.
The nude photos had been removed from the site that originally posted them yesterday, but a professional-looking black-and-white image of Mrs Sherman dressed in lingerie, which was allegedly part of the leaked set, was being carried by several online news outlets.
Mrs Sherman says in the lawsuit that she began receiving threatening and offensive calls and text messages about the pictures shortly after her husband visited McDonald's on 5 July. She was then shocked to discover that several private images she had sent to him had been posted online. The lawsuit holds the McDonald's Corporation, together with the local franchise owner, responsible for what it claims were the reckless and abusive actions of its staff. A spokesman for the company did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the case.
The affair has sparked heated debate in online forums, with many correspondents expressing surprise at the quality of the allegedly private photographs.
Some wondered if the couple might have somehow engineered an elaborate compensation scam, a suggestion they are likely to reject.