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January 20, 2005 - Jury orders beer vendor to pay $75 million in punitive damages

The company that serves beer at Giants Stadium was ordered to pay an additional $75 million in punitive damages for serving beer to an intoxicated fan who later drove and hit a girl who was left paralyzed.  This punitive damages award is in addition to a $60 million judgment for the girl’s living and medical expenses, to be split between the fan and Aramark, the concessionaire. 

That makes $105 million the catering conglomerate must shell out over the 1999 wreck, in which tipsy fan Daniel Lanzaro plowed into a car as the then-2-year-old Antonia Verni and her family were returning from a pumpkin-picking trip.

Antonia's family argued that Aramark was responsible for the accident, which left her a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, because it continued to serve Lanzaro after he was extremely intoxicated.

The New Jersey man, who is serving a five-year prison sentence, had a blood alcohol level of 0.266, three times the legal limit and equal to some 16 beers.

The child's lawyer yesterday told jurors that Aramark took no steps to stop the sale of beer, and recalled testimony from beer vendors who said they regularly sold beer to drunken fans.

"This is a problem that has to stop and you are the people who have to make it stop," he said in court.

Aramark argued that Lanzaro tricked beer vendors into serving him by appearing not to be drunk.

The jury ordered the company to pay $65 million to Antonia and $10 million to the child's mother, Fazila, who was also injured in the wreck.

The company will have to pay all of yesterday's $75 million punitive judgment, but will evenly split Tuesday's $60 million judgment with Lanzaro. The company issued a statement yesterday saying it was "disappointed by the size of the award" and would appeal.

Neither Antonia nor her mother were in court. Both of the child's parents had to quit their jobs to take care of her.
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