In November 2008, a Pizza Hut delivery person drove into oncoming traffic and hit a car head-on, causing serious injuries to the passengers inside the other vehicle. Olena Novack, age 87, and her daughter, Shari Novak, age 62, both suffered massive, life-altering injuries: Olena suffered a broken neck, amongst other injuries, and Shari suffered permanent brain damage and can no longer feed herself, communicate, or provide her own daily care. Consequently, an attorney for the Novaks family filed a personal injury lawsuit against Pizza Hut and the 18-year-old driver, Nicole Fisk, who was responsible for the accident. However, the driver has since been dropped from the lawsuit because Pizza Hut argued that the crash occurred because the driver had a seizure, which caused her to blackout momentarily while driving. In addition, they claim that her condition was not known before the accident occurred.
Furthermore, representatives for Pizza Hut argued that the company did its due diligence when hiring the young driver, including ensuring that she had a current driver’s license, car insurance, and clear background check. But, lawyers for the Novaks countered that the company should have done more to check the driver’s background, since she only had a license for three months prior to obtaining the job and also had a history of blackout spells and staring episodes. At the end of last month, a California jury agreed with the Novaks’ attorneys, and rejected the defense’s claim. Instead, after reading the verdict, one of the jurors stated that he believed that the young driver should have known she could have a blackout episode due to her prior medical history.
Nevertheless, jurors did not find Pizza Hut negligent in hiring her, but did make the company responsible for the damages since the driver was their employee at the time. Overall, Shari Novak received $8.6 million for her medical and noneconomic damages and her mother, Olena, received $2.2 million for her injuries. The family’s attorneys are hopeful that the verdict in this case will send a signal to companies to be more careful when hiring young, professional drivers.