We previously reported (Jan. 21) on Daniel Lanzaro’s drunk driving accident litigation; the little girl he paralyzed won a $105 million verdict against Aramark over beer sales at Giants Stadium because Lanzaro did some of his drinking there that day, in part by bribing a beer vendor to ignore Aramark’s two-beer-per-purchase rules. (Before the game, Lanzaro purchased a six-pack of Heineken; he did some drinking at two strip-clubs after the game, as well.) The New Jersey Law Journal has more on the case:
- The NFL defendants settled for $700,000, despite prevailing on a summary judgment motion;
- Judge Richard Donohue excluded evidence that Antonia Verni’s father might have prevented the injuries to his daughter had he put the two-year-old in a car seat rather than an adult seat-belt;
- Verni also sued Toyota; Verni’s Corolla didn’t fare well when Lanzaro’s pickup slammed into it head-on, and Toyota paid $190,000 to get out of the case;
- There’s collateral litigation to be had among plaintiffs’ family members and sets of lawyers over who gets the money. And, of course, there will be an appeal.
As previously reported, the judge also excluded evidence of Lanzaro’s two previous drunk-driving arrests. (Henry Gottlieb, “In Wake of Record $105M Verdict, Fee Fights and Coverage Contests Emerge”, Feb. 2; Wayne Coffey, “Wasted Innocence”, NY Daily News, Jan. 30; Kibret Markos, “Expert backs beer vendor”, The Record, Jan. 12). As famous sportswriter/treacle-author Mitch Albom notes, “Either your stadium goes dry, or people will leave drunk.”
A correction: we previously reported that the entire $135 million verdict was awarded against Aramark; in fact, $30 million of the verdict is damages against the drunk driver, Daniel Lanzaro, who had already settled for the limits of his insurance coverage. Aramark’s share is $30 million compensatory, $75 million punitive, and about $6-7 million in interest, with the interest continuing to accumulate. After he settled with the plaintiffs, Lanzaro changed his story to be more favorable to the Vernis’ case. (Ana M. Alaya, “Lawyer for Giants Stadium beer vendor loses bid for mistrial”, Newark Star-Ledger, Jan. 13).
An additional thought: A big argument for plaintiffs at trial was the claim that Aramark, which serves to the two million or so fans who attend football games at Giants stadium each year, had been averaging about seven complaints a year for selling beer to drunks, but only took disciplinary action a fraction of the time. The press hasn’t covered Aramark’s response to this assertion, but one wonders if fear of employment litigation stayed its hand. Earlier damned-if-you, damned-if-you-don’t files include Aug. 30.
Another point: A reader writes to note that Aramark was probably selling watered-down beer, which would be further evidence that post-game drinking was responsible for Lanzaro’s .266 blood-alcohol level, though, again, it shouldn’t matter: Aramark didn’t make the guy drive drunk.