A Santa Rosa winery has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who was permanently disabled in an alcohol-related car crash in 2006. Paradise Ridge Winery was sued by Joshua Apodaca, the passenger in a car driven by a 19-year-old classmate, Sean Bradley, who was served beer at a wedding reception hosted by the winery. A crash early the next morning left Apodaca with a serious brain injury. His family filed suit seeking damages from Paradise Ridge, Bradley, and the owners of a 7-Eleven store where Bradley bought additional alcohol.
Under the terms of a court-appointed settlement, the winery will pay $3 million, 7-Eleven will pay $500,000 and Bradley will pay about $105,000. The money from the settlement will cover the cost of life-time care for Apodaca, and buy him a house with disability accommodations. The service of alcohol to minors at wedding-related functions is an important issue.
The suit arose from the events of July 14, 2006, when Apodaca and Bradley attended a wedding at the winery. Bradley said he was served six to eight beers by the winery despite telling an employee he left his identification in his car. When the reception ended, Bradley and Apodaca got a ride to Bradley’s parents’ home. Once there, the two drove off together in a Subaru sedan, stopping at a 7-Eleven, where Bradley was said to have bought two bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
The crash occurred early the next morning, a few blocks from Bradley’s house. According to police, the car was speeding when it crashed into trees and a redwood fence. Both men had to be cut from the wreckage. Tests taken at a hospital revealed Bradley had a blood-alcohol level of .14%, almost twice the legal limit. He was convicted of driving under the influence and causing bodily injury and sentenced to nine months in jail and three years’ formal probation.
Apodaca, now 23, suffered brain and orthopedic injuries. His mother and grandfather were named by the court as conservators of his estate because of his disabilities. The suit was originally filed against Bradley and his parents for damages related to the crash. Paradise Ridge and the 7-Eleven were added later as Defendants. An annuity yielding monthly payments was purchased for Apodaca. Over the course of his lifetime, it is expected to pay out $4.9 million.
Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Group will pay the jury award for the winery. The Bradleys were covered for $100,000 by an automobile insurance policy and the 7-Eleven owners were covered under a corporate indemnity policy. California law states that bars, wineries and other licensed alcohol purveyors are not responsible for what intoxicated patrons do once they walk out the door. But Apodaca’s lawsuit was based on the exception to this rule, which is a prohibition on serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated minors. Patrick Emery, a Santa Rosa, Calif., lawyer, represented the Plaintiffs and did a very good job.
Source: The Press Democrat
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