Crash Victim Gets $105 Mln from Concessionaire

Fri Jan 21, 2005 10:05 AM ET By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The family of a girl paralyzed in a car crash caused by a drunken football fan won $105 million in damages from the concessionaire that sold him beer, and the girl's father said on Thursday the case should have far-reaching effects.

The Superior Court jury in Hackensack, New Jersey, assessed punitive damages on Wednesday against Giants Stadium concessionaire Aramark Corp., for its role in the October 1999 accident that left Antonia Verni, then 2 years old, paralyzed from the neck down.

"I believe the jury accomplished two things," Ronald Verni said in a telephone interview. "It should provide Antonia with the necessary medical care and maintenance for the rest of her life, and send a message to Aramark and other vendors of alcohol at stadiums and arenas in the United States.

"Clean up your act and hopefully prevent other Antonia Verni conditions out there."

Aramark, one of the world's biggest food and beverage providers, said in a statement it plans to appeal.

Trial testimony showed that Daniel Lanzaro, 34, had gotten around a rule allowing the purchase of only two beers at a time by tipping a vendor to buy six. The family's lawyer, David Mazie, argued that Lanzaro was also noticeably drunk at the time.

Lanzaro, whose blood-alcohol level after the crash was more than twice the legal limit, is serving five years in prison for vehicular assault. He settled separately with the Vernis.

The New York Giants football team defended Aramark's alcohol policies and said in a statement: "No words can express the sorrow we feel for what the Verni family has gone through."

The conduct of inebriated fans has been a concern in U.S. sports, notably at last November's NBA fracas at the Detroit Pistons' Palace in Auburn Hills where Indiana Pacers players charged into the stands to fight with fans after a beverage was dumped on one of the Pacers.

That incident prompted criminal charges, the suspension of eight players and promises from NBA Commissioner David Stern to improve security operations across the basketball league.

But it did not change the Auburn Hills' policy on beer, which is sold through the third quarter of games.

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