Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., Obtains $20.4 Million Drunk Driving Accident Verdict

Share Article

New York Supreme Court judge finds a Manhattan nightclub is liable for serving drinks to a ‘visibly intoxicated’ customer who later crashed into taxi in which the plaintiff was a passenger.

Attorney Samuel L. Davis

A verdict of this magnitude will, hopefully, lead other bars in New York to re-examine their alcohol service practices[.]

The law firm of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., has obtained a $20.4 million verdict on behalf of a young woman who suffered devastating injuries in a 2006 crash involving a driver who admitted he spent the night drinking at a now-defunct Manhattan nightclub.

On February 13, 2015, following a non-jury trial, the Honorable Nancy M. Bannon entered judgment in the amount of $20,403,540 in the Supreme Court of New York, New York County (Index No. 112286/2006).

The court found the driver, Harzem Sendogan, to be 60 percent at fault for the drunk driving crash that injured the young woman, Diana Tafur. The court placed 40 percent of the fault on the nightclub that served the driver, Home, which is owned by A 1 Entertainment, LLC.

Attorney Samuel L. Davis, a founding partner of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., brought the lawsuit on behalf of Tafur and her parents and co-guardians, Ivan and Stella Tafur. The complaint asserted negligence, intentional tort and New York Dram Shop Act claims.

“A verdict of this magnitude will, hopefully, lead other bars in New York to re-examine their alcohol service practices, provide meaningful training to staff on how to responsibly serve alcohol and prohibit the outrageous practice of allowing staff to consume alcohol while they are serving customers,” Davis said.

The case received coverage in the New York Post in a March 9 article.

According to the decision, Sendogan admitted that he drank for many hours at the nightclub before leaving with a friend in the early morning hours of January 29, 2006. While driving away, he approached the intersection of East 84th Street and 1st Avenue and sped up to try to “beat” a yellow light – but he instead struck a taxi in which Tafur was a passenger, the decision states.

The force of the impact propelled Tafur from the taxi onto the road, causing her to sustain severe brain injuries that placed her in a coma for six months, led to years of rehabilitation and which, today, still require her to receive 24-hour care, according to the decision.

In July 2006, Sendogan pled guilty to two counts each of second-degree vehicular assault and driving under the influence of alcohol, and at the January 2015 civil trial, he admitted that he was intoxicated when he left the club on the night of the crash, the decision states.

Several former Home employees testified at the trial, according to the decision, stating:

  •     The club placed no limit on how much alcohol could be served to one customer.
  •     Most staff members received no training on identifying signs of intoxication.
  •     Staff members were permitted to drink on the job.
  •     Bartenders sometimes gave away drinks to their customers.

Surveillance video presented at the trial showed Sendogan buying four drinks and attempting to pay a bartender at 2:54 a.m., but instead, dropping money onto the floor behind the bar, the decision states.

An expert testified that Sendogan’s blood alcohol concentration, at the time he dropped the money behind the bar, was consistent with being greater than 0.16, the decision states. The expert added that Sendogan had lost fine motor control and was “visibly intoxicated” by that point, and his blood alcohol level rose to 0.18 by the time he left the club at around 4:30 a.m., according to the decision.

A police officer also testified, stating that Sendogan smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot eyes, slurred his speech and was unstable on his feet at the crash scene, the decision states.

Based on this evidence, the court found A 1 Entertainment liable under New York’s Dram Shop Act (General Obligations Law § 11-101, et seq.). The law imposes liability where there is proof that the defendant “sold alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated, and that the sale of alcohol bore some reasonable or practical connection to the resulting damages.”

“[The evidence] clearly establishes that employees of Home served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated Sendogan in the hours preceding the accident, and that this conduct substantially contributed to the subject accident,” the court found.

The court awarded $10 million in damages for future life care as well as $2,403,540 for past and future lost wages and a combined $8 million for Tafur’s past and future pain and suffering.

“Our law firm has a long history of protecting the rights of drunk driving accident victims and their families,” said Davis, whose experience includes representation of the plaintiff in the case of Lee v. Kiku, 127 N.J. 170, 603 A.2d 503 (1992), which he tried and argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The case established a frequently cited dram shop liability precedent under New Jersey law.

Davis also represented Carlos Zelaya in a dram shop liability case against Madison Square Garden, which resulted in a settlement for an undisclosed amount in the fall of 2010. (Case No. 1:2008cv02933, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York).

In that case, the lawsuit alleged that Madison Square Garden was liable for continuing to serve alcohol to an intoxicated, off-duty Jersey City police officer who later caused a high-speed crash on the Pulaski Skyway, killing Zelaya’s two-year-old son and leaving the child’s mother with catastrophic brain damage.

Additionally, Davis noted that a Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., partner, Steven Benvenisti, is himself the survivor of being hit by a drunk driver. Benvenisti currently serves on the MADD National Board of Directors.

About Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C.

The law firm of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., provides compassionate and skilled legal help to those injured by the negligence of others. Since 1981, the firm has secured more than $400 million in verdicts and settlements for personal injury and accident clients throughout New Jersey and New York. The firm’s main office is located at 375 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ 07666 (local phone (201) 907-5000). For more information about Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., call (800) LAW-2000 or use the firm’s online contact form.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Mike Dayton
Visit website