A Pizza in the Face Leads to a Fistfight, and $1.8M Verdict
Stressed manager 'blew a gasket,' punched customer, plaintiff's lawyer says
A Fulton County jury awarded $1.8 million to a man for injuries he suffered during a sauce-splattering fistfight with a cheesed-off Pizza Hut manager following a profanity-laced exchange over bad service.
The verdict was $1.4 million more than the plaintiff had offered to settle the case, said his attorneys, Tucker husband-and-wife team James and Sharon Howard.
The injuries ultimately cost their client, Frank Clark, his job, and even after three surgeries left his hand permanently disabled, according to the lawyers and filings in the case.
Clark turned 52 the day of the verdict, said Sharon Howard, "so he had a nice birthday present."
The trouble started around 8:30 p.m. in September 2010, when Clark went to pick up a pizza he'd ordered from a Pizza Hut in Alpharetta. There was no one behind the counter, Sharon Howard said, and Clark joined "these four super-tall guys" who had placed an order and were waiting for their food.
"Turns out these guys were hip-hop producers working nearby, taking a break," she said. "They'd placed a huge order for wings and pizza, and they tell him, 'the service isn't that good tonight.'"
Clark could see someone on the phone in the kitchen, she said, and after waiting 10 or 15 minutes, he entered the "employees-only" area and asked the man on the phone, 32-year-old shift manager Gary King, for his pizza.
According to the defense portion of the pretrial order, Clark and King "exchanged words—including profanities—and subsequently a physical altercation ensued," during which both sustained injures, Clark to his hand and King to the "face and head area."
Sharon Howard described the incident like this: King "storms out, yelling, 'Here's your fucking pizza,' and slams it down so hard some of the pizza splashes out and hits my client," she said. "[Clark] said, 'No, you take this fucking pizza, I don't want it. I'm going to report you to your manager.'"
Clark left the restaurant with King on his heels, "yelling, 'Oh, no, you'll take this fucking pizza, I'm going to give you this pizza for free, where's your fucking car,'" the attorney said. Clark was stepping into his car, Sharon Howard said, "when he turns around and the pizza hits him in the face. Hot pizza goes all over him—we put his pizza-stained shirt into evidence—and he had the foresight to take a picture of himself."