August 3, 2006
Court reverses $105 mln award for crash victim
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey appeals court on Thursday
overturned a decision ordering a beer concessionaire at Giants
Stadium to pay $105 million to the family of a girl paralyzed
in a car crash caused by a drunken football fan.
The state court reversed last year's ruling against Aramark
Corp. and called for a new trial after it found a lower court
had improperly allowed testimony about the extent to which
excessive drinking was tolerated at the stadium.
"The admission of this evidence cannot be considered
harmless. A central theme of the plaintiffs' case was the
culture of intoxication at the stadium," the 65-page judgment
Aramark, one of the world's biggest food and beverage
providers, was ordered to pay the damages to the family of
Antonia Verni, who was 2 when she was paralyzed from the neck
down in an October 1999 accident.
Daniel Lanzaro, whose car collided with the Verni car, had
a blood-alcohol level after the crash that was more than twice
the legal limit. He is serving five years in prison for
vehicular assault and settled separately with the Vernis.
Trial testimony said Lanzaro had gotten around a rule
allowing the purchase of only two beers at a time at the
stadium by tipping a vendor to sell him six.
The Verni family lawyer had argued that Lanzaro was also
noticeably drunk at the time.
But the three-judge appeals panel said further testimony
about the "culture of intoxication" at football games should
not have been allowed.
"The evidence had the clear capacity to mislead the jury,
to inflame the jury and to detract from the central issue in
the case of whether Lanzaro was visibly intoxicated at the time
of service," the judgment said.
A spokeswoman for Aramark said the company was saddened by
the injuries suffered by the girl but gratified by the court's