In Texas, bartenders can face substantial fines, civil liability, and even jail time for overserving visibly intoxicated patrons. In Pennsylvania, the Superior Court is reviewing whether this same principle should be extended to valet services offered at hotels, restaurants and other establishments where alcohol is served.
This case comes after a man with a blood-alcohol level of .329, more than 4 times over the legal limit, died in a one-vehicle crash just minutes after retrieving his car from the valet attendant at a Pennsylvania casino and racetrack. Surviving wife, Faye Moranko, is not asking the state Superior Court to impose a higher duty on valet attendants, nor is she asking the court to absolve all personal accountability for individuals who decide to drink in public establishments and subsequently get behind the wheel. However, she is asking that the law impose a legal duty on valet attendants to simply act reasonably before handing the keys of an automobile over to a person who is visibly drunk.
Lawyers for the casino, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, have washed their hands of any such duty, claiming, “It was not the responsibility of the casino for the condition he put himself in.” The only responsibility that existed, the casino counters, was to return the Moranko family vehicle back over to the decedent once the car was called up. Even though a man whose blood-alcohol is a staggering 4 times over the legal limit, argues the casino’s defense attorney, “the valet could not deny him the right to get his property back.”
The state Superior Court heard both sides of the argument last Tuesday asking the defense to specify the legal obligations that it commits to when patrons visit their casino and racetrack. The court is currently reviewing the case and has not yet set a date for its decision.