Alcohol At Sports Venues Can Spell Liability For Vendors

As any New Jersey personal injury attorney can tell you, spectators at sporting events assume an element of risk. If you attend a pro baseball game, for instance, you generally assume the inherent risk of being smacked with a foul ball. It probably says so right on the back of your ticket. 

But the recent rash of spectator deaths and injuries, most involving alcohol, puts the spotlight on arena vendors and security personnel who actually may be held accountable for public safety, within the arena and beyond. 

In fact, alcohol served at what was then Giants Stadium was at the heart of one of the most significant liquor liability verdicts in recent history. Here’s a summary: 

  • In 1999, 30-year-old fan David Lanzaro was served the equivalent of 16 beers by employees of stadium vendor Aramark. 
  • Lanzaro continued to be served despite being obviously drunk, as confirmed by witnesses. He even convinced Aramark employees to violate the two-beer maximum by serving him as many as six beers at a time. 
  • After leaving the game (and more bars), Lanzaro was involved in a drunk-driving crash that paralyzed 2-year-old Antonia Verni. 
  • Lanzaro was convicted of vehicular assault, for which he served a five-year prison term. 
  • In a subsequent civil suit, Lanzaro was ordered to pay $30 million in compensatory damages to the little girl’s family. 
  • Aramark was ordered to pay another $30 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages, for a total of $105.5 million. 
  • Aramark appealed the verdict, which was overturned. In 2007, the family finally reached a settlement with Aramark for $23.5 million for Antonia and another $1.5 million for her mother, Fazila, who was also injured in the crash. 

The landmark decision was heralded as a wakeup call for sporting venues and vendors, but as mishaps involving drunken sports patrons continue to make the news, it may be time to sound the alarm again.