Quadriplegic 7-Year-Old Rivets Courtroom
HACKENSACK, N.J. – A 7-year-old girl paralyzed when a drunken football fan crashed into her family's car on the way home from a New York Giants (search) game captivated a courtroom as she discussed her plans for the future.
Sitting in a wheelchair, unable to move her arms or legs, Antonia Verni told jurors on Thursday she has big plans.
"I want to be a singer, a rock star, a kindergarten teacher and a ballerina," she said as two jurors brushed back tears.
The Cliffside Park (search) girl has been paralyzed since the crash that happened when she was a 2-year-old on the way home from pumpkin picking with her family.
She testified on the second day of a civil trial in Superior Court against Aramark (search), the Giants Stadium concessionaire that sold beers to Daniel Lanzaro, the fan who crashed into the Vernis.
The Vernis claim Aramark was partly responsible for the October 1999 crash that left their daughter a quadriplegic who requires 24-hour care.
They claim Aramark vendors sold Lanzaro beers at the stadium though he was clearly drunk and "fostered" an atmosphere where intoxicated patrons were served, which is against the law.
An economist is expected to testify that it will require $32 million to care for the girl for the rest of her life.
But a lawyer for Aramark said that while the girl's plight is tragic, the company is not responsible for the accident. He said the vendors were not irresponsible when they sold Lanzaro beer because he is an admitted alcoholic and either did not show signs of intoxication or "fooled" the servers.
Attorney Brian Harris suggested Lanzaro is trying to pass blame for the crash now that he is in jail serving a five-year sentence for aggravated vehicular assault and has settled with the Vernis.
Blood tests taken an hour after the crash showed Lanzaro's blood-alcohol level was .266, more than 2 1/2 times the then-legal limit of 0.10. The state has since lowered the legal limit to 0.08.
Lanzaro testified on Wednesday that he went to two strip clubs after the game and may have had a beer at one of the establishments, which also is being sued.
On Thursday, the Hasbrouck Heights police officer who arrested Lanzaro, Officer Corey Lang, testified that Lanzaro was "dazed" and staggering in the moments after the car crash and that, when asked if he had been drinking alcohol, he said, "Obviously, too much."
Lang testified that he had witnessed more than 100 visibly drunken patrons being served beer at Giants Stadium during the years he went to games. He said he did not take any action because he was off-duty.
The Vernis had also sued the NFL, the Giants and the Sports and Exposition Authority, but a judge previously dismissed the complaints against those entities, ruling they were not liable.