Verdict (P): $3,000,000
Case: Steven Neyer, Debbie Neyer and Amy Johnson v. Warehouse Liquor Mart, No. 01-CV-3399
Court: Arapahoe County District Court, CO
Judge: Timothy Fasing
Plaintiff Attoney(s): Phillip Harding, Harding & Associates, Denver, CO (Debbie Neyer, Steven Neyer)
Ronald Rodboy, Law Offices of Ron Podboy, Denver, CO (Amy Johnson)
Defense Attorney(s): Robert A. Dill, Dill, Dill, Carr, Stonebraker & Hutchings, Denver, CO
Patrick Toohey, Dill, Dill, Carr, Stonebraker & Hutchings, Denver, CO
Facts & Allegations
On June 3, 2001, Christian Workman, Adam Devereaux and plaintiffs’ decedents Adam Neyer, all 18, and Nicole Scott, 15, went to Warehouse Liquor Mart in Englewood, Colo. Workman and Devereaux purchased a keg of beer, which they put in the car and drank with friends at a party in the mountains. Five hours after they left the liquor store, Workman slammed his Nissan Sentra sedan into a telephone pole in Englewood at approximately 100 mph, killing Scott and Neyer.
Their parents sued Warehouse Liquor Mart Inc. for wrongful death, alleging that the clerk at the liquor store willfully and knowingly sold alcohol to minors. The drinking age in Colorado is 21.
Warehouse Liquors replied that Workman presented identification that showed he was over the legal age to purchase alcohol.
The plaintiffs refuted this by showing Warehouse Liquors’ surveillance tape, which did not show the clerk asking Workman for identification.
The parents soughht wrongful death damages for loss of companionship and for future lost wages.
In a bifurcated trial, a jury found for the plaintiffs on both liability and damages. It apportioned the liability between the liquor store, the driver and two of the passengers in the car. The liquor store was found 70% negligent for the death of Scott and 65% liable for the death of Neyer. Workman was found 25% negligent for their deaths. Devereaux and Neyer were found to be only slightly negligent. Scott was not found to be negligent.
The jury awarded the plaintiffs $3 million, but because of a Colorado state law, C.R.S. Sec. 12-47-801, that limits the liability of a liquor store, each plaintiff will get only $219,750, plus interest running from the date of the accident.
Workman was sentenced to 14 years in Colorado state prison for vehicular homicide.
Commenting on the matter, Ronald Podboy, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said that the testimony of the store manager and the clerk was not credible. He further said that despite the liability limit, a strong message has been sent to Colorado liquor store owners.
Robert Dill, one of the defense lawyers, said that his client was disappointed with the verdict, and had hoped that a larger percentage of the liability would be apportioned to the driver of the car.
Trial Length: 6 days
Jury Deliberations: 7 hours
Jury Composition: 4 female, 2 male