A jury in Bessemer, Ala., returned a verdict last month of more than $15 million in damages against a convenience store. A 2007 crash killed a 13-year-old boy and injured three others. The lawsuits filed were brought 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 before Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Verin. The four separate lawsuits had been consolidated for trial to be heard before Judge Verin. The verdicts were as follows:
• Michael Waldrop was awarded $750,000 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
• Sharon Robertson, the mother of 13-year-old Drew Robertson, a passenger, who was killed in the crash, was awarded damages of $7 million.
• Jennifer Vickery, another passenger, was awarded $3.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
• Tammy Hardin, the mother of Brittany Caffee, the driver of the car, was awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.
The crash happened about 9 p.m. on May 2, 2007, on a public highway in Tuscaloosa County. The driver, Brittany Caffee, was intoxicated when the crash happened. 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. The 14th Street BP had been known for selling alcohol to underage children, according to Ashley Peinhardt, one of the lawyers in the case. Ashley said: “Everbody knew that was the place to go if you are underage and don’t have an ID.” The convenience store is no longer owned by The Nineteenth Street Investments.
Alabama’s Dram Shop Act allows lawsuits to be filed against stores or restaurants that sell alcohol to minors when injuries or damages occur as a result of the sale. The driver of the car in this case could not file a lawsuit, but her mother could under Alabama law.
Several lawyers from Jefferson County, each representing a different Plaintiff, were involved in the trial of this case. Ashley Reitz Peinhardt, a lawyer with the Hare, Wynn firm, represented Michael Waldrop; Pat Lavette, a lawyer with Davenport, Levertte, & Cledeler, represented Ms. Roberts; Ralph Bohanan represented Jennifer Vickery; and Ed Tumlin represented Ms. Hardin. Each of these lawyers did good work in this case for their client.
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