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The liabilities of Anheuser-Busch

Anheuser-Busch - which owns Budweiser, Michelob, Rolling Rock, Busch, Shock Top, and other beer brands - has, over the years, been the cause of many injuries. Not surprisingly, it has also been the subject of many lawsuits, many of them filed after individuals drank excessively and then hurt themselves.

For example, one man who attended the Bud World Party at the 2002 Winter Olympics became intoxicated and then took part in a hockey puck shooting contest. He slipped on the ice and suffered damage to his brain, neck, and head. He sued Anheuser-Busch, and not without success. While the jury found that the man himself was mostly liable for his injuries, they decided the beverage manufacturer was also at fault, and ordered Anheuser-Busch to pay damages.

A recent case in California, however, puts a twist on the types of lawsuits the company most often sees, as no alcohol was consumed at all.

Reckless merchandising

The matter begins with an 86-year-old woman sustaining an injury in a grocery store and ends with an $886,974 verdict in her favor. As detailed in the National Law Review, the woman was shopping at an Albertsons, a national grocery chain with a heavy presence along the west coast, when an Anheuser-Busch employee struck her from behind with a merchandise cart. She fell, injuring her back - and injury that, she claimed, resulted in chronic pain. Her medical expenses, she said, amounted to nearly $300,000, and she sought damages for pain and suffering as well.

The scene was caught on video, and Anheuser-Busch admitted liability. Nevertheless, they believed the woman's claims to be excessive and argued that many of her purported ailments stemmed from her age, and not the cart accident. They posited that, prior to the injury, the woman suffered from arthritis, vascular disease, and scoliosis, among other ailments. They offered a settlement of $85,000 - an offer that was summarily rejected. In court, the plaintiff sought $1.1 million.

How the injury claim was maximized

The case is an interesting object lesson in how a plaintiff's injuries can be disputed, even when liability is not. That is, even though Anheuser-Busch acknowledged it was at fault, the company believed a great deal of the woman's suffering arose from underlying medical conditions.

The jury, as it happened, disagreed. The trial lasted less than a week; the jury deliberated for less than three hours. With the help of her attorneys, the plaintiff was able to convey the full range of her injuries, and obtained what can likely be deemed her maximum due.

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