Ruling revives lawsuit against stadium beer vendor

File Photo.
File Photo.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The family of a girl fatally struck by a drunken driver will be allowed to proceed with a lawsuit against the vendor at Indianapolis Colts games that sold beer to the driver, an Indiana appeals court ruled.

The court ruled that South Carolina-based Centerplate, the food and beverage provider for Lucas Oil Stadium, can’t avoid the lawsuit by arguing that the beer was sold by an unknown volunteer server. The 3-0 ruling issued Wednesday reverses a Marion County judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

The family of 12-year-old Tierra Rae Pierson sued Centerplate, claiming it negligently served alcohol to the driver who hit her along a street on the south side of Indianapolis after a December 2010 Colts game.

The appeals court decision said questions about whether the driver was intoxicated from alcohol he drank inside or outside the stadium should be decided as the lawsuit moves forward.

Centerplate is considering whether to appeal the decision to the Indiana Supreme Court, company attorney Michael Moon told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1lV9RQA ).

Tierra was killed while walking with her 12-year-old cousin, January Canada, who was injured. Trenton Gaff pleaded guilty in 2011 to charges from the crash including driving with blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher causing death and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Betina Pierson said she was pleased with the appeals court’s ruling.

“I’m really glad that I’ll be able to have a day in court for my daughter,” Pierson said. “She deserves more than to be just another statistic.”

Centerplate operates in more than 300 sports, entertainment and convention venues in North America and the United Kingdom, according to its website. That includes nine National Football League stadiums, including those in San Francisco, New Orleans, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

At Lucas Oil Stadium, Centerplate pays the volunteers a commission of 8 percent on alcohol and 9 percent on food that goes to their nonprofit organization. Such use of volunteers at concession areas is common for sports venues across the country.

Daniel Chamberlain, the Pierson family’s lawyer, said companies relying on volunteer servers should face the same responsibilities as a bartender who gives drinks to an intoxicated customer.

“Is it fair that people go to a Colts game, get drunk and drive home?” he said. “It exposes everybody, innocent consumers and kids and families, to drunk drivers.”

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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