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$32 million verdict against Domino's Pizza
BEAUMONT-By: Leslie Rangel
A Jefferson County jury says Domino's Pizza will have to pay a Beaumont family $32 million.
A jury said negligence from the pizza chain contributed to a deadly accident last year.
Attorneys with the Provost Umphrey Law firm say it's one of the largest verdicts handed down against the national pizza chain.
August 11, 2012, life changed for Ruth and Devavaram Christopher.
They were missionaries living in Beaumont.
During an interview with Ruth's brother one year ago, he shared with us what he remembers from that August night last year.
"They were supposed to be back at 8 p.m. to join us for dinner. My sister is very prompt, if she is late, she would immediately call me. I didn't get a call and I started worrying right at 8 p.m." RB Reddy, Ruth's brother said in an interview from one year ago.
A driver from the Domino's Pizza franchise on Dowlen Road was delivering a pizza.
"It was raining, he had a bad tire, lost control, hydroplaned into the oncoiming traffic and slammed into the Christopher's vehicle," Chip Ferguson, the Christopher's attorney says.
The attorney says the delivery car tires had no tread and the driver was rushing to meet what Ferguson says is a 30-minute delivery policy from Domino's Pizza.
"Including no more than a 9-minute drive time for the delivery drivers, the delivery drive in our case was well outside 9 minutes," Ferguson said.
Ruth Christopher died at a hospital hours later, her husband sufferes from brain damage.
The jury found the pizza chain's negligence contributed to the accident.
"Domino's simply refused to enforce the basic safety rules for the safety of the vehicle, that gets back to the fact that we had a set of tires on this particular delivery vehicle that by everybody's admission were unsafe, defective, dangerous," Ferguson said.
Ferguson says the company doesn't do enough to make sure delivery drivers keep their cars safe.
"What they actaully give drivers is minimum wage and a $1.40 forty per trip. Now, if you're making a 9-minute trip, that $1.40 might and I mean might cover your gasoline, it's not going to cover tires, oil, any other type of mainteneance," Ferguson said.
The jury agreed and awarded $32 million dollars to the Christopher family.
"If it's too easy for Domino's to write a check to cover up a safety probelm, then the problem never gets fixed. Hopefully, a verdict in excess of $30 million, maybe that will get their attention, if not we'll suit up and do it again another time with some other unfortunate victim," Ferguson says.
The Vice Preseident of Communications, Tim McIntyre sent us a statement, it reads, "First, our hearts go out to all involved in this tragedy. This was a terrible accident. Whats difficult to comprehend is the idea that a corporation is responsible for whether an independent franchise employee is driving on bald tires. The employee is in question did not work for us; he worked for an established independent franchise operation. Franchisors do not control the day-to-day operations of franchisees, especially to that minute level of detail. We are saddened by this tragedy, but do intend to appeal the decision."