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Duval County

This was a liquor liability (dram shop) action brought by the male plaintiff, age 19 at the time of injury, against the defendant owner of a convenience store/gas station. The plaintiff contended that the defendant sold beer to an underage patron in violation of Florida law. As a result, the plaintiff claimed that the patron disregarded a stop sign and caused an intersection collision which left the plaintiff a permanent paraplegic. The defendant denied selling beer to the individual in question and maintained that alcohol was not a factor in causing the accident.

The plaintiff contended that his friend, who was 19 years old at the time, purchased two six packs of beer at the defendant’s Duval County store. The plaintiff and his three friends then got into a pick-up truck with the plaintiff and another young man riding in the back bed of the truck. The driver of the truck drove through a stop sign and an intersection collision ensued.

The plaintiff slid in the back of the truck and struck his back against the side of the back bed.

The plaintiff’s expert toxicologist opined, based on the testimony of the boys involved, that the driver of the pick-up truck was intoxicated at the time of the collision. This expert opined that the driver of the pick-up truck had consumed from five to seven beers prior to the accident.

The plaintiff’s friend testified that he purchased the beer at the defendant’s store. A second boy testified that he waited in the truck while the purchaser went into the defendant’s store and came out with the beer. The purchaser also testified that he sometimes used an expired military photo-identification to purchase beer. The identification card belonged to the purchaser’s brother who was 20 months older than the purchaser.

The purchaser also testified that he frequently purchased beer at several Duval County stores at various times, including some stores where the clerks were friends of his.

The plaintiff was rendered a permanent paraplegic as a result of the accident and is unable to move from the waist down. His life care expert testified that the plaintiff will require continuing care for the remainder of his life. The plaintiff’s future life care expenses were estimated to be in excess of $2 million. The plaintiff had quit high school and was not employed at the time of the accident. The plaintiff’s economist estimated the plaintiff’s loss of earnings as approximately $________.

The defendant denied that it sold beer to the individual in question and argued that if the sale was made, it was not willful (as required under Florida statute) because the plaintiff’s friend used false identification to make the purchase. The defense also maintained that there was no evidence that the plaintiff’s friend (the driver of the pick-up truck) was intoxicated on the night in question. The defense contended that the stop sign was obscured by a branch and that the accident was not the result of alcohol consumption. Evidence showed that a field sobriety test taken by the driver of the pick-up truck showed that the driver was not impaired at the scene.

Additionally, a blood alcohol test of the plaintiff’s blood taken p 7 3 at the hospital shortly after the accident showed minimal alcohol content of less than .01%.

The jury found for the defendant.

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