Minami Tamaki LLP associate Seth Rosenberg and partner Dale Minami were able to help the victim of a drunk driver and also expose systematic malfeasance and negligence by one of the largest liquor distributors in the country.
On the evening of August 30, 2006, Mr. Smith (not his real name, which is being kept confidential) was driving home on Niles Canyon Road in Alameda. Keith Patrick Sweeney was driving in the opposite direction with a blood alcohol content of .23 – almost three times the legal limit.
Sweeney crashed his car head-on into Smith’s car, catastrophically injuring Smith, who barely survived the accident and will be disabled for the rest of his life. Sweeney’s automobile insurance liability limits were only $100,000, which covered just a fraction of Smith’s medical bills.
Rosenberg, MT’s lead attorney for Smith, discovered in litigation that Sweeney was a salesman for Young’s Market Company (YMC), one of the largest liquor distributors in the country.
As part of Sweeney’s job, he drove to YMC’s customers off-site (large retail beverage stores), sampled wine with these clients, and then drove to other customers to sample wine.
YMC had almost no policies or procedures to prevent its salespeople from driving while inebriated. The company also knew that salespeople would, at times, become inebriated on the job.
Rosenberg also discovered that YMC knew before hiring Sweeney that he had a prior DUI conviction, but hired him anyway. YMC’s Human Resources Department also did not notify Sweeney’s supervisors about his prior DUI, even though one of Sweeney’s supervisors testified that such information would be relevant to his training and supervision of Sweeney.
Even worse, for a year leading up to the accident, Sweeney admitted to drinking YMC’s alcohol samples of scotch until he passed out almost every night. YMC did not have policies and procedures in place to detect Sweeney’s yearlong drinking misconduct.
As the evidence of YMC’s negligent hiring, training, supervision and evaluation of Sweeney kept mounting throughout the litigation, YMC eventually settled with the victim Smith and his wife for $1,000,000. Sweeney contributed another $100,000 for a total settlement of $1,100,000.
Rosenberg and the MT personal injury group are proud that they were able to help the Smith family financially and bring to light YMC’s negligent conduct, which greatly contributed to this unnecessary incident.