By SHERRI KOLADE
DEARBORN — After Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Macdonald lifted a gag order on Dearborn attorney Majed Moughni March 11, Moughni has rallied others to object to a nearly $700,000 settlement over a McDonald’s franchisee that allegedly sold foods falsely advertised as halal in 2011.
The Dearborn McDonald’s restaurant, 13158 Ford Road, and its management company, Finley’s Management Co., agreed Jan. 18 to pay nearly $700,000 to Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed and community organizations after Ahmed accused the franchisee and management company in 2011 of serving haram or non-ritually fit, foods advertised as halal, which he ate.
A final settlement hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 17 in circuit court.
The final hearing will determine how the money is divided; about $20,000 is expected to go to Ahmed, $275,000 to the Health Unit on Davison Avenue clinic in Detroit, about $150,000 to the Arab American National Museum and roughly $230,000 to attorneys, according to case reports at www.citizen.org.
AANM Communications Director Kim Silarski said museum officials did not know they were the recipient of a portion of the settlement money and have not “gotten any word about any payments.”
Moughni said it is unfathomable that the AANM would receive $150,000 without its representatives knowing about it.
“That is odd that they would be receiving $150,000 and they are saying they have no idea,” he said.
The preliminary settlement was expected to be finalized by March 1, but was rescheduled to March 6 and later March 11.
Last month, Macdonald placed a preliminary injunction on Moughni for speaking out about the lawsuit.
Macdonald ordered Moughni, who was not originally a part of the case but disagreed with the settlement, to remove all case-related information from his Facebook page, Dearborn Area Community Members.
Before the gag order, Moughni posted his feelings in posts and messages on the page in Arabic and English, urging community members to speak out about their objections toward the settlement.
Moughni, who has eaten at the McDonald’s Ford Road location and abides by the laws of halal, said community members affected should receive the settlement money instead of community organizations.
Residents who possibly ate any non-halal food at McDonald’s or who disagree with the settlement have until April 8 to submit their objections to circuit court with a postmark by April 1.
“I’m going to submit mine in the next couple of days,” Moughni said. “I object to the settlement because it should go to people injured and not the medical center. It should stay in the community.”
Moughni said since the gag order was lifted, his Facebook page receives about 25,000 views a week with 400 “likes” and “shares.”
“People are angry,” he said. “They are upset. They are boycotting McDonald’s. A lot of people don’t trust McDonald’s. And they are not going to either one (including the Michigan Avenue location). But they are targeting the one on Ford.”
The McDonald’s on Michigan Avenue and Ford Road are reportedly the only two in the nation that sell halal products.
McDonald’s U.S. Communications Director Danya Proud said in an emailed statement that McDonald’s has always been committed to its customers and the communities it serves.
“All parties involved concluded that the best resolution of this matter was to provide support to organizations that also serve and benefit the local community,” she said in the statement.
She said because the class action lawsuit is a pending legal matter, she and other representatives cannot comment further.
According to a published report, one McDonald’s attorney said during the March 11 hearing that Moughni was acting as an attorney in the case and gave inaccurate legal advice and his gag order was appropriate. Others said he was acting like a concerned community member, who happened to be an attorney with a Facebook page.
Moughni said he knows objecting to the settlement was right and he hopes it does not go through. If the settlement were to go through, he plans to appeal and “take it to the next level.”
“The option is to get someone to appeal the settlement based on members of the community against it,” he said.
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected].)