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Four days after a St. Louis (Mo.) Circuit Court jury returned a $78 million punitive damages award against Domino's Pizza, the world's largest pizza delivery company dropped its fast-delivery policy.

Hundreds of claims have been filed against the pizza maker by motorists and others who allege that their injuries were caused by company delivery drivers. They contend that Domino's promise of delivery within 30 minutes encouraged company drivers to speed and drive negligently or recklessly. From 1984 to 1986, a late-arriving pizza was left at no cost to the customer. Since 1986, customers have been given $3 off their orders.

In announcing the policy change, Domino's President Thomas Monaghan said the jury verdict had persuaded the company to rescind its 30-minute promise. "That was certainly the thing that put us over the edge," he explained, adding that there "continues to be a perception, a perception that I believe is not supported by the facts, that the guarantee is unsafe. We got that message loud and clear."

The St. Louis jury ruled for Jean Kinder, who suffered head and spinal injuries when a Domino's delivery driver ran a red light and hit her car broadside in 1989. Kinder and her daughter were headed to a bowling alley to try out her daughter's new ball, a Christmas present, when the accident occurred.

The jury ordered Domino's and the local franchise operator to pay compensatory damages. Punitive damages were assessed only against Domino's and reportedly equaled the amount paid in one year to customers whose pizzas arrived late. Domino's vowed to appeal the punitive damages award, but in late March attorneys for Kinder and the company reached an out-of-court settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed.
"Really, what the jury was saying is, 'We want the policy to stop,'" said Paul Kovacs, the attorney for Kinder.

Note: The parties in this case entered a post-verdict settlement.

Kinder v. Hively Corp., Mo., St. Louis County Cir. Ct., No. 902-01235 (verdict Dec. 17, 1993).








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