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Pennsylvania Dram Shop Law and Designated Drivers

There is a profound importance held in the role of the designated driver. Typically a designated driver more commonly known as the “DD”, is the often seen as the selfless individual in a group, who takes on the role of the sober driving buddy in a group where varying degrees of inebriation is often expected. As a Philadelphia personal injury attorney I understand first hand the perils of drinking and driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver every day in the United States. A designated driver can be the difference between a group safely arriving home and potentially ending the night in a dire situation. A recent case was brought before the Courts of Common Pleas that reflected the real concerns of drinking and driving, and the need to uphold Pennsylvania’s Dram Shop law. In Specht v. Kenny’s Bar and Restaurant, the decedent’s estate settled with the driver and multiple bars involved in the fatal DUI crash that claimed the lives of two young women in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

On February 25, 2011, a group aged 20, and 21 went out for a girl’s night, which included dancing and libations. The night ended in the deadly crash along Byberry Road in Bensalem, after the driver lost control of her vehicle and struck a utility pole. Melissa Lees and Caitlin Hennessey both passengers, died as a result of the crash. Hennessey’s father and Melissa’s mother, plaintiff Susan Specht, sued, the driver Susan Pond who was 20 at the time, along with Kenny’s Bar and Restaurant Inc., and CMJ Sheffield. The cases, which were initially consolidated, were settled separately. Plaintiff Specht contends that Pond was negligent in the operation of her vehicle while she was intoxicated, and that both Kenny’s Bar and CMJ Sheffield violated the Dram Shop law. Specht’s memo stated that Pond was served alcohol at both establishments even though she was under the legal drinking age of 21. In Pennsylvania the Dram Shop law makes it unlawful for a liquor license holder or agent such as an employee, to serve alcohol to any minor or visibly intoxicated individual. In order for a bar or restaurant to be held legally liable, it must be (1) proven that the license holder violated the law by serving a minor or visibly intoxicated person, and (2) that the violation of the Liquor Code caused the injuries and or damages.

Kenny’s Spirited Eatery, which was owned by defendant Kenny’s Bar and Restaurant Inc., a place known to attract and is specifically marketed towards a younger crowd, was the first stop of the night. Pond’s pretrial memo contends that the two bars were liable in serving an underage visibly intoxicated individual. Kenny’s Bar stated that they have a policy of checking everyone’s ID prior to entering their bar. Further stating that police had found a driver’s license of a 22-year-old woman who resembled Pond in Pond’s car on the night of the crash. After spending time dancing at the Kenny’s Spirited Eatery the group went to Paddy Whacks, a bar and restaurant owned by defendant CMJ Sheffield Inc. Surveillance video at Paddy Whack’s showed Pond consuming alcoholic beverages, dancing with the bouncer who both knowingly acknowledged letting underage drinkers into the bar and occasionally drank while on the job. During the night of February 25, 2011, it is alleged that Susan Pond, the driver and 20-year-old, was provided alcohol at both establishments after she was visibly intoxicated, and that her intoxication was a direct cause of her loosing control of her SUV that ended in the death of her two friends Melissa Lees and Caitlin Hennessey. Part of growing up is learning that every decision we make have consequences. On the evening of February 25, a group decided to engage in risky behavior coupled with no designation of a sober driver. The parties settled for $750,000 with comparative fault distributed against the defendants. Accordingly, Pond, who was insured by State Farm, was liable for $250,000, Kenny’s contributed $100,000, and CMJ the remaining $400,000.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury due to a car accident you may be entitled to just compensation. If you would like more information regarding personal injury representation, and to determine whether you have grounds for a case, please contact us online or call 1 800 7 LEGAL 7 for a Free Case Evaluation.

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