A $210,000 award to a Salt Lake City woman from Godfather's Pizza Inc. following her assault by robbers of a pizza restaurant has been affirmed by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Thursday ruling upheld the award to the woman, who was assaulted by two men during a robbery at a Salt Lake City Godfather's Pizza Oct. 5-6, 1983.The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $200,000 in general damages and an additional $36,000 in special damages, which later was reduced by the court to $10,000.
Both sides appealed, Godfather's claiming the woman's only remedy should have been worker's compensation and that, in any case, the company wasn't responsible. The woman appealed the reduction of the special damages from $36,000 to $10,000.
The appeals court in Denver rejected both arguments and affirmed the original award.
The woman was on her way home on foot in the company of a late-night shift supervisor when two robbers accosted them, forced them to return to the store and ordered the supervisor to open the safe, which contained about $500.
But contrary to a corporate policy requiring employees to cooperate fully with criminals, the supervisor despite his ability to open the safe denied he could do so.
"The men became frustrated and disgusted at their inability to get any money," the opinion said, and one made a statement that if they couldn't get any money, they would assault the woman.
The supervisor told the robbers he could not open the safe because he didn't want to lose his job and he didn't want Godfather's to lose any money, the opinion noted.
"One of the men then took plaintiff to a different part of the restaurant, forced her to undress, and raped and sodomized her. Then, the second man did likewise. During this, (the supervisor) heard her crying and screaming," the opinion said. "After the second assault on plaintiff began, (the supervisor) finally agreed to open the safe . . ."
The appeals court said the record showed a classic jury question about whether the assault occurred within the context of work, and the jury decided it did not happen that way.
Two experts also testified during the trial that the response to the robbery by the supervisor was substandard and said they thought if the money had been turned over immediately the robbers probably would not have harmed the woman, the opinion said.
"The trial court ruled, and the evidence established, that Godfather's had recognized foreseeable harm and created its own duty to the public when it established its written `robbery policy,' " the court said. "Under Utah law, Godfather's had a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances."
But the court also upheld the reduction in special damages from $36,000 to $10,000 because at the time of the trial, medical and counseling expenses incurred had reached only $550, and although there was testimony she may need continued counseling, there was no evidence presented about its cost.