Jury adds $4.4 million to judgment against lodge over beer sale

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

DILLINGHAM (AP) -- A jury Thursday added $4.4 million in punitive damages against a remote lodge for the wrongful death of a Levelock man.

The jury earlier spent six hours deliberating before they awarded $4.4 million in compensatory damages to the family of a Troy Peterson, who accidentally shot himself to death while he was drunk.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs convinced the jury that liquor sales by Katmai Lodge led to Peterson's death under the state's anti-bootlegging law.

The lodge's liquor license didn't allow sale of alcohol except for consumption on the premises, but the plaintiffs' lawyer said a group of Levelock men including Peterson bought seven cases of beer there a few hours before he died.

While the award to Peterson's mother and two children now totals $8.8 million, they're likely to receive much less. For one thing, state law limits punitive damages awards to $500,000.

Tony Sarp, owner of the Katmai Lodge, was the only additional witness called in the punitive damage phase of the trial. By telephone, he testified about the lodge's unsteady finances. The lodge owes nearly $2.5 million, he said. It is on the Alagnak River in the Kvichak River drainage.

The case was brought under an anti-bootlegging law that went into effect a few months before Peterson's death in October 1997. The law says a business involved in unauthorized sales of alcohol is responsible if harm comes to the buyer.

Peterson had a blood alcohol level of .26 when he shot himself in his home with a gun he fired at his head to show a friend it wasn't loaded. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit for driving.

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