According to the Tampa Bay Times, plaintiff alleged the restaurant chain served alcohol to him and his friends, even though they were all under the age of 21. He is now 24 and paralyzed from the neck down.
The injured man’s attorney hopes the case will encourage more bars to comply with statutes that prohibit underage drinking.
Authorities report that after a night of throwing back drinks at the local Applebee’s, plaintiff was riding in the bed of a pickup truck when the driver slammed into a tree and he was ejected, suffering severe and permanent injuries.
Despite the eye-popping size of the damage award, he will only receive a fraction of that. Jurors ascertained the restaurant chain is only liable for 20 percent of the damages, or about $8 million. Following the jury verdict, plaintiff reached a confidential settlement with the chain in exchange for its agreement not to appeal that damage award, so presumably he took home less.
Jurors opined plaintiff was 40 percent responsible for his own injuries and the driver of the vehicle is also responsible for 40 percent of the damages. The driver also settled with victim for an undisclosed amount prior to the jury verdict.
At the time of the crash in 2012, plaintiff was just 20-years-old. In fact, no one at the table was 21, yet they were served a pitcher of beer. A bartender insisted he checked one of the men’s driver’s licenses. After the group finished their drinks, they all got into a pickup truck.The driver reportedly blew through a red light before losing control of the vehicle and striking a tree.
Victim has limited movement of his arms, but no movement at all in his lower extremities.
Although $8 million might seem like a lot of money, one must consider what this young man lost that night. At just 20-years-old, he lost out on his dream of becoming a member of the military. He lost the opportunity to live a normal life. He does want to attend college. This money will allow him to do that and to purchase a home and vehicle that will accommodate his wheelchair. In other words, it will allow him to live independently.
Generally, Florida does not hold businesses accountable for the negligence of their patrons. However, F.S. 768.125 carves out an exception in cases where businesses that serve alcoholic beverages either to minors or those who are known to be habitually addicted to alcohol.
It’s often difficult to prove someone is habitually addicted to alcohol or that this information was known to bartenders. However, it’s much easier to prove a patron was underage at the time of service. Those same patrons, even though they too are breaking the law by consuming alcohol while underage, can still pursue legal action if they are hurt as a result. Legal action may also be taken by anyone injured by that underage patron.
If you are injured in a Miami drunk driving accident, our attorneys can help.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Hernando County jury awards quadriplegic man $42 million verdict, April 22, 2016, By Josh Solomon, Tampa Bay Times
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Ochoa v. Koppel – Florida Car Accident Settlement Offer Rules Challenged, July 7, 2016, Florida DUI Injury Lawyer Blog