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$5M Verdict Against CA Restaurant for Death at Dangerous Driveway

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Los Angeles jury held an upscale Santa Monica restaurant liable for $5 million in damages in a premises liability case where a patron exited onto a dangerous driveway, cut off an oncoming motorcyclist and killed him when he fell.

Defendant Terry Allen Turner, a tourist from Oklahoma, had dinner at Geoffrey’s restaurant on the night of March 16, 2011. After dinner, he left the restaurant by turning left onto the Pacific Coast Highway. The highway is one-way street in front of Geoffrey’s restaurant.

Joseph Annocki, age 41, was riding his motorcycle southbound on the highway when he attempted to avoid Turner, who fell off of his motorcycle and was killed.

Eileen Annocki and Joseph Annocki, Sr, the parents of Joey Annocki, sued defendants Terry Allen Turner, Peterson Enterprises LLC, the owner and operator of Geoffrey’s restaurant Jeffrey Peterson, and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), for the wrongful death of their son.

The plaintiff attorneys are Donald G. Liddy and Paula J. Khehra, Liddy Law Firm, Pasadena, CA, and Thomas J. Johnston, Johnston & Hutchinson LLP, Los Angeles, CA. The case is Eileen Annocki and Joseph Annocki, Sr. v. Peterson Enterprises, LLC dba Geoffrey’s Malibu and Terry Allen Turner, No. SC112366, Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica.

Dangerous driveway

The plaintiffs contended that Geoffrey’s or Caltrans should have warned customers about the dangerous driveway leading to the one-way highway. Geoffrey’s contended the "Qwik Kurbs" or median dividers along highway were sufficient to warn customers of the one-way traffic. Caltrans claimed it had no duty to warn.

The case against Geoffrey’s was dismissed by Judge Amy Hogue. A unanimous Court of Appeal reversed, finding that Geoffrey’s had a duty to warn its customers and had notice of the dangerous condition. Particularly because of nighttime conditions, the likelihood of serious injury, the configuration of Geoffrey’s driveway, and the fact that customers are served alcohol.

The jury awarded $5 million in non-economic damages against the defendants. The jury apportioned fault Geoffrey’s Malibu 35% ($1.75 million), Terry Allen Turner 50% ($2.5 million), and Caltrans 15%. Caltrans settled before trial for $1 million.

The court has been asked to approve prejudgment interest of $866,863.68 against Geoffrey’s Malibu, and prejudgment interest of $892,463.79 against Terry Allen Turner.

The plaintiff's final demand was Peterson Enterprises, LLC:  $1 million on December 26, 2012, and Terry Turner: $125,000 on May 15, 2014. Defendant Peterson Enterprises, LLC offered $500,000.

The plaintiff experts were Brad Avrit, civil engineer, Los Angeles, CA, and Jon Landerville, accident reconstruction, Torrance, CA.

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