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A lawyer who won a landmark $105 million dram shop verdict against a concessionaire based on evidence of a “culture of intoxication” at Giants Stadium, only to see it reversed on appeal, isn’t giving up easily. David Mazie has taken out newspaper advertisements asking football fans and stadium workers to come forward if they’ve seen alcohol served to drunken fans, such as the one who left a 2-year-old girl paralyzed in a post-game car crash. “Have you seen drunk fans served alcohol at the stadium? If so, we need your help,” Mazie says in ads placed in the sports sections of The Record of Hackensack on March 18 and The Star-Ledger of Newark on March 25. Mazie said he has received useful responses from the ads and plans to place a few more. Defense lawyers Michael Rodburg and David Field of Lowenstein Sandler said the ad campaign is an effort to sidestep last year’s Appellate Division ruling, Verni v. H.M. Stevens, that vacated the judgment upon finding the trial judge erred in admitting culture-of-intoxication evidence. The defense lawyers plan to raise their objections at a management conference tomorrow before Bergen County Superior Court Judge Robert Wilson, who will preside at the retrial set for July 23. “We’re relying on the trial judge to follow the Appellate Division’s mandate,” said Rodburg, who together with Field represents defendants Aramark Services Management of New Jersey Inc., made up of unionized employees at the stadium, and Harry M. Stevens Inc., an Aramark unit licensed to run concession stands. “Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they have no intention of following the law decided by the Appellate Division,” Field and Rodburg stated in a letter brief filed on March 22. “Plaintiffs are well aware that this type of evidence is now inadmissible.” The defense lawyers ask Wilson “to take control of the case early and put plaintiffs on notice . . . that they are not free to disregard the limitations placed on this case by the Appellate Division.” Mazie, of Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman, recognizes the appeals court set strict parameters on admissible evidence, but said the defense, by asserting that concession workers were trained not to serve visibly intoxicated fans, opens the door to asking whether the concessionaire’s policies were violated. He also said newly acquired witness accounts could constitute evidence of habit if the retrial reaches a punitive damages phase. “I need enough evidence from season-ticket-holder-type fans for it to be determined as habit,” he said. Mazie’s case hinges on showing that Daniel Lanzaro, the Giants Stadium patron who injured his client in a car crash on Oct. 24, 1999, had been served beers at a football game though visibly drunk. The Appellate Division had found that that Mazie’s evidence was “not overwhelming” because his visible intoxication proofs were not founded on first-hand witness accounts. Instead, he submitted expert witness testimony about drunken, rowdy behavior at Giants games and negligent supervision and inadequate training of vendors – all irrelevant to liability under the Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22-A-1 et seq., which is based solely on whether a customer was visibly intoxicated when served. In order to hold Aramark liable under the statute, the plaintiffs should have had to have shown that Lanzaro – who had a blood-alcohol content of .266 percent, more than two-and-a-half times the legal limit, just after the accident – was served while visibly intoxicated. The appeals court held that Superior Court Judge Richard Donohue, by allowing the culture-of-intoxication evidence, gave free rein to Mazie to warp the result in an already sympathetic case. Antonia Verni, then 2 years old, was left a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic after Lanzaro’s car collided with hers. The appeals court concluded that evidentiary error, compounded by a lack of curative instructions, led the jury to assess $30 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitives. The court also found Donohue erred in granting summary judgment on claims against the National Football League, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the Giants and The Gallery, a strip club Lanzaro visited after the game and before the accident. The jury should have been allowed to consider evidence against all the defendants and possibly apportion liability among them, the court said. The appeals panel had also found prejudicial the late joinder of Aramark Corp., the parent company, and Aramark Sports and Entertainment Group Inc., an affiliated entity, as defendants. The defense lawyers oppose Mazie’s motion to amend the complaint to join them now. This article originally appeared in the New Jersey Law Journal , a publication of ALM.

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