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
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).