A St. Louis jury awarded $20.5 million to a man who was beaten by five people at a Jack in the Box restaurant.
The full verdict was $25 million, but the jury assessed 18 percent of the fault against the plaintiff, Ali Aziz. The plaintiff filed the lawsuit in 2011 through his mother and next friend, Annette Brown.
The verdict came on Aug. 30, at the end of a two-week trial.
Aziz, 35, suffered an anoxic brain injury, according to a guardianship petition Brown filed to prosecute the personal injury suit. The probate case was dismissed without prejudice a few months after it was filed in 2011.
Represented by lawyers from Anderson & Associates in St. Louis, Aziz alleged that the owners of the Jack in the Box restaurant at 1807 Gravois Road in south St. Louis knew there had been many violent and nonviolent crimes on the premises before Aziz was beaten.
The plaintiff listed seven violent crimes — fights, assaults and two weapon offenses — between February 2006 and September 2009. He also listed 10 nonviolent crimes between August 2005 and February 2010; those included larceny, property destruction, auto theft and suspicious persons.
John Anderson, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, could not be reached immediately for comment. St. Louis lawyer Richard A. Day, of Hennessy & Roach, represented defendant Jack in the Box Eastern Division, and Randy P. Scheer, of Sanders Warren & Russell in Springfield, represented Jack in the Box Inc. They also could not be reached immediately for comment.
According to the petition:
Aziz and an unidentified friend arrived at the restaurant at 5 a.m. June 10, 2010, to get some food. While they were there, a group of five individuals was harassing other customers around the restaurant’s drive-thru and parking lot.
The five started a fight with Aziz and his friend. The friend fled, and Aziz was beaten unconscious. When the city’s emergency medical personnel arrived, they found Aziz unresponsive with blood in his mouth and nose. They attempted a tracheotomy but placed the tube in his esophagus instead of his trachea, preventing oxygen from reaching his brain. The paragraph describing the medical error was stricken before trial.
The defendants’ motion for a directed verdict mentioned that Aziz had been assaulted and robbed at the restaurant. They argued in the motion that the plaintiff failed to prove he was an invitee on the premises. They also argued that landowners don’t have a duty to protect business invitees from the criminal acts of others and that the plaintiff didn’t prove that the violent crimes exception to this rule should apply. Aziz did not show a causal relationship between any alleged negligence of the defendants and his injuries, the defense argued.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Thomas C. Grady denied the defendants’ motion.
The case is Ali Aziz, by and through his natural mother and next friend, Annette Brown v. Jack in the Box Eastern Division and Jack in the Box Inc., 1122-CC00629.