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The lack of consequences for a soft drink giant and their driver

Jan 4, 2021

Mild to severe motor vehicle accidents can result in significant verdicts and settlements. When the negligent driver works for a large, high-profile corporation, six figures or more are often on the line. In addition to financial losses from an adverse ruling, a brand’s image can take a severe hit.

Established in 1892, Coca-Cola has become a dominant force in the beverage industry. In 2019, they enjoyed a market share of nearly 44 percent. The brand name has been associated with everything from Santa Claus to Stranger Things. In some areas of the country, a “Coke” can represent any type of soft drink, regardless of the flavor or brand.

Trucks filled with Coke products travel the roads nationwide. On some occasions, the operators of those large vehicles cause serious accidents that impact images and bottom lines. Coca Cola enjoys coffers overflowing with money. An accident here and there would likely not hurt them financially. Making a plaintiff truly whole would require a strong message in the form of a significant payout.

Andy Martinez filed suit against the soft drink giant after one of their delivery trucks rear-ended a vehicle where he was a passenger. When settlement talks stalled, the case went to trial. A jury ruled in his favor. However, Martinez was awarded only $150,000 for past and future pain and suffering.

Martinez’s attorney sought to set aside the verdict on the damages based on the significant evidence presented in court. While a lower court gave Coke a choice between a new trial or a total of $800,000 in damages, a New York appellate court reversed it and restored the $150,000 award. They claimed that “conflicting expert opinions and evidence” on Martinez’s pre-crash condition may have come from previous injuries that he suffered prior to the collision.

Coca-Cola walks away from the case relatively consequence-free. The low six-figure sum represented a mere pittance, if not pocket change for the company. In the end, the final amount was anything but a deterrent.


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