Ruth and Devavaram Christopher were driving on a rainy evening when Domino’s pizza delivery driver Joshua Balka lost control of his SUV and crossed the centerline, striking the Christophers’ vehicle. Ruth Christopher, 65, suffered injuries from which she died the following day. She was a doctor and missionary and is survived by her husband. Devavaram Christopher, a 69-year-old minister, suffered a traumatic brain injury. He is now permanently disabled and requires full-time care. His past medical expenses totaled $977,000, and his future life-care costs are estimated at $2.8 million.
Balka, who was making a pizza delivery at the time of the crash, was cited for speeding and having worn tires, including one that was completely bald.
Ruth Christopher’s estate and a guardian on behalf of her husband sued Domino’s Pizza, alleging that the crash resulted in part from the company’s failure to enforce a vehicle inspection policy with its franchisees. The plaintiffs also contended that Domino’s enforced an unsafe delivery method by providing drivers with bonuses and other incentives for fast deliveries, and that the compensation the company provided employees was not sufficient to ensure they could adequately maintain their vehicles.
The plaintiffs also sued the individual franchise owner and Balka, alleging that he was negligent in speeding, driving with worn and dangerous tires, and failing to maintain control of his vehicle.
There were no claims for lost earnings.
Domino’s argued that it was not responsible because it did not control the day-to-day operations of its franchisees.
The jury awarded $32 million, allocating fault at 60 percent to Domino’s, 30 percent to the franchise owner, and 10 percent to Balka. After allocation of fault, Domino’s is responsible for $19.2 million.
Citation: Reddy v. Domino’s IP Holder, LLC, No. A-192,970 (Tex., Jefferson Co. Jud. Dist. Aug. 2013).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Paul F. Ferguson Jr. and Larry Hunter, both of Beaumont, Texas.