Yesterday the Ninth Court of Appeals entered judgment dismissing Domino’s Pizza from a lawsuit. This voided a huge verdict that had been awarded in a horrendous motor vehicle accident case that killed one person and ruined the life of another in Beaumont.
In 2012 Mr. and Mrs. Christopher were crashed into by a delivery driver for MAC Pizza Management, the franchisee of a Domino’s Pizza. He who drove his Ford Explorer across the center line and hit into their car head-on. The driver’s car had bald tires and the roads were wet. Domino’s had a corporate policy requiring that pizzas be delivered within 30 minutes, which only allowed nine minutes for a driver to get to the customer’s house. This delivery was further than that distance from the restaurant.
Mrs. Christopher died that night and Mr. Christopher suffered a traumatic brain injury. The couple had been Christian missionaries for over 20 years.
The representative of the two estates filed suit, claiming that Mac and Domino’s Pizza were vicariously liable for their driver’s negligence pursuant to the theories of respondent superior, principal-agent, joint venture and joint enterprise. In addition, plaintiff alleged that Domino’s was liable because it failed to use rules monitoring the safety of its drivers, the delivery was greater than nine minutes away from the restaurant, and the manager should have checked his vehicle and seen the tires had no tread.
The jury rendered a verdict of over $32 million dollar verdict for mental anguish, loss of companionship, funeral expenses, medical expenses, impairment and disfigurement found Domino’s was 60% at fault.
The appellate court in Beaumont agreed that the evidence was legally insufficient to establish that Domino’s owed a duty to the Christophers because the corporate owner had no right to control MAC Pizza’s day-to-day operations. Domino’s argued that it did not control every aspect of its franchisee’s business and had no way to know that the wreck would occur.