Paul J. Walsh III and Adam M. Barnes
Motor vehicle accident / dramshop / wrongful death and survival action
The Plaintiff-decedent, an 18 year-old male home for the weekend from college, died as a result of a one-car motor vehicle accident. He lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a utility pole. Prior to the accident, the decedent was one of 80-100 partygoers at a local house party hosted by another minor. His blood alcohol content was .228. The Plaintiff-estate entered into evidence economic specials totaling $1.8 million.
The estate pursued a wrongful death and survival action against two local beer distributors, alleging that each sold keg beer to underage purchasers using false Pennsylvania driver’s licenses as identification. The estate settled with one distributor prior to trial.
While it is negligence per se to sell alcohol to any minor, the distributor asserted the statutory affirmative defense that it made a “good faith” effort to determine that the purchaser was of legal age. Additionally proximate cause was at issue because the partygoers, including the Plaintiff-decedent, had access to at least 10 cases of canned beer and bottles of liquor and wine. The jury returned a defense verdict.