A jury in Bessemer, Alabama found that a convenience store must pay more than $15 million in damages for a 2007 crash that killed a 13-year-old boy and injured three others because the store had sold alcohol to the underage driver.
The lawsuits were filed under Alabama’s Dram Shop Act because the store sold alcohol to an underage driver. The jury returned the verdict against The Nineteenth Street Investments Inc., former owners of the 14th Street BP in Bessemer, after a week-long trial.
The crash occurred on May 2, 2007 at approximately 9 pm on a public highway in Tuscaloosa County. The driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash. The jury found that the convenience store, owned by The Nineteenth Street Investments, Inc., had sold the alcohol to the driver, who at the time was under the age of 21. This place was known for selling alcohol to underage children who do not have a valid ID.
It was alleged that a group of friends were spending the night together, engaged in under-age drinking. They reportedly visited the same convenience store three times in one evening to buy alcohol. The evening ended when the girl driving the car slammed into a tree, killing a13-year-old teenager passenger in the process.
The jury awarded $15 million to the four plaintiffs:
The deceased 13-year-old boy’s mother was awarded $7 million of this money.
One of the 15-year-old passengers in the car was awarded $750,000 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
Another teen passenger in the car who was badly injured in the crash was awarded $3.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The mother of the intoxicated driver was awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.
It is thought that the jury may have awarded such a large sum because representatives from the convenience store denied repeatedly that they had sold alcohol to the group of minors. For the convenience store to deliberately lie and refuse to admit their part only added fuel to the fire. The surviving victims and family members were already suffering from pain and anguish, this just made the trauma worse. This denial seemed to anger the jurors.
The lawsuits were filed under Alabama’s Dram Shop Act, which allows lawsuits to be filed against stores or restaurants that sell alcohol to minors that result in injuries or damages. The intoxicated underage driver could not file a lawsuit, but her mother did.
Plaintiffs incurred damages in the form of medical expenses, broken bones requiring surgical repair, ruptured spleen, head injuries requiring staples, lung injuries, mental anguish, as well as other compensable damage, as stated in the lawsuit. A 13-year-old passenger lost his life in this tragic accident.
The convenience store is no longer owned by The Nineteenth Street Investments.
Of course the money does not matter to a mother who will never see her son grow up. She is hoping that the jury’s verdict will send a message about the dangers of selling alcohol to underage children.
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