Miami Jury Orders Bar That Served Drunk Driver To Pay $96M In Damages
One of the largest verdicts ever in an automobile accident case was delivered by a Miami-Dade jury this month. A South Florida family whose daughter was killed and whose son was catastrophically injured by a drunken driver in 2015 was awarded $95 million in damages plus attorneys’ fees. The defendant, Georgetown Partnership, was ordered to pay almost $59 million for the medical care of the son and $37 million in damages to the victims’ parents.
Georgetown Partnership is the owner of The Corner, a bar in Miami. The jury found that the bar was negligent in serving alcohol to the inebriated driver during a company Christmas party.
The family reached confidential settlements with other defendants in the case. The plaintiffs had also named the driver, a 22-year-old man who in 2017 was sentenced to seven years in prison after he was found guilty of driving under the influence and causing the accident, and Crossfit Downtown Miami, the gym where the driver worked that hosted their Christmas party at the bar.
According to news reports and TopVerdict.com, the civil verdict against the drinking establishment owner ranks third, only to the famous $1 billion Florida verdict against two trucking companies in 2021, and a $120 million verdict in another truck accident case.
According to the Insurance Journal, the jury in the $1 billion case found that the driver for one company was on his cell phone, was over the allowed number of driving hours, and did not have a commercial license. After the accident caused a pileup, another truck driver failed to slow down and slammed into the cars, killing an 18-year-old. The jury granted $100 million to the parents, along with $900 million in punitive damages.
In this case of wrongful death and personal injury, the jury did not award punitive damages, which could have been capped under Florida law. Florida’s “dram shop” statute allows damages, but only when an establishment willfully or unlawfully sells booze to a minor or to someone who is “habitually addicted” to alcohol.
A Florida appeals court earlier this year reversed a $29 million dram shop verdict against a bar in Tallahassee. And it’s possible the judge in this suit could reduce the amount, similar to what happened with the $120 million verdict in the truck crash suit.
According to reports, it’s unclear what assets Georgetown Partnership may hold that could be used to pay the judgment. The firm is listed as a limited liability corporation, meaning its principals can’t personally be held liable for most of the damages.