Saturday, March 05, 2005
According to CNNSI, a New Jersey state judge upheld a $105 million dollar verdict against Aramark - the company that runs the beer concessions at Giant's stadium - based on their sales of beer to an intoxicated fan who subsequently was in a car accident that has permanently paralyzed a 2 year-old girl.

The fan had a blood alcohol level of 2 times the legal limit, and testified that he was allowed to purchase 6 beers at halftime despite the fact he had already consumed half a dozen during the first half. An expert testified that the medical costs for caring for the 2 year-old girl will be approximately $42 million dollars during her lifetime.

The actual judgment was for $30 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive. Which makes this verdict look a bit worse than it is really. I would argue that whole verdict should have been compensatory. You have $42 million for just medical costs, you have lost opportunity and lifetime earnings, pain and suffering, etc. I don't see why all of that couldn't add up to $105 million or close to it.

Regardless, the fact that punitive damages were awarded in a less than 3 to 1 ratio to compensatory damages, makes the award seem reasonable to me. And dram-shop laws allow for this type of liability in pretty much every state, so it is not as if holding the vendor liable is unexpected.

But I am sure certain groups will throw this number out there as an example of the need for tort reform. I hope they don't because I agree that tort reform is needed - but I strongly disagree that this case provides support for that argument.
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I am an attorney in Chicago. Politically speaking, I am an indepedent that tends to lean conservative on fiscal issues and progressive on social issues. I try to remain as unbiased and open-minded as possible. Please email or post any comments, and especially criticisms. If something I say is wrong, or you disagree - let me know about it!



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