San Diego, CA. – A San Diego Superior Court jury today returned a verdict against Pizza Hut, Inc. for a total of $10.8 million. The case arose out of a November 9, 2008 collision between a Pizza Hut delivery driver and a mother and daughter on Clairemont Drive in San Diego, California. During the event, the delivery driver, 18 year old Nicole Fisk, drifted across lanes, and collided head on with the vehicle containing Olena Marie Novak and her daughter Shari Marie Novak. Olena, 87 years old at the time of the accident suffered a severe cervical fracture. Her daughter, Shari , suffered a catastrophic and permanent brain injury. She today requires 24 hour care.
After the crash, Pizza Hut claimed its delivery driver had suffered a seizure caused by previously undiagnosed epilepsy, causing the collision. “Sudden medical emergency” is a defense to negligence under California law.
Attorneys representing the Novak family countered that Pizza Hut’s driver knew she had a previous medical condition, and that Pizza Hut should have done more to ensure she could safely work as a professional driver. The driver, Nicole Fisk, was only 18 years old at the time, had held a drivers license for only 3 months, and had a history of “staring spells” and “blackout” episodes prior to the incident.
The jury agreed, finding both that there was no “sudden medical emergency” excusing the driver’s conduct. The jury awarded Olena Novak a total of $ 2.2 million and Shari Novak $8.6 million.
John Gomez of the Gomez Law Firm, attorney for the Novak family, stated, “This case was about corporate responsibility. Pizza Hut refused to accept its responsibility and the jury properly imposed it.” Co-counsel Joseph Lavelle, of Wertz McDade Wallace Moot & Brower added, “Today this jury made the roads safer for all of us. Hopefully from now on, corporate employers will do what they need to do to make sure they hire only safe drivers to get beyond the wheel daily as part of their job.” Both firms represented the family at trial.
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