Zarwin Attorneys Secure Dismissal of Catastrophic Injury and Wrongful Death Claim

Source: Zarwin Baum

Ted Schaer, and Noah Shapiro of the regional law firm of Zarwin Baum, recently secured dismissal of a Philadelphia civil action against their client, a local Fortune 100 Company (the “Company”), involving multiple catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death claims.

The action arose out of a motor vehicle accident on I-95 in late 2019 that occurred when a former employee of a subsidiary of the Company operated his personal vehicle while intoxicated, having a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit. The former employee rear-ended another vehicle while traveling close to 100 mph, killing two and severely injuring two others. Prior to the accident, the former employee had attended a holiday party held by a vendor of the Company at a restaurant where he consumed alcohol. Following the holiday party, the former employee continued to drink, first at the restaurant, then at a nearby local bar. The Plaintiffs sued the former employee for negligence and the restaurant and bar for violations of the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Act, alleging the former employee was visibly intoxicated when served. Plaintiffs brought suit against the Company and its vendor, alleging that both had co-sponsored the holiday party and were therefore liable for serving the former employee while visibly intoxicated, for failing to monitor his consumption of alcohol, and for failing to prevent him from driving while intoxicated.

Zarwin was retained shortly after the accident, prior to suit, to coordinate an investigation and develop a litigation strategy. When suit was filed, Zarwin filed preliminary objections in the form of a demurrer, seeking dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ claims against the Company for failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Zarwin’s arguments on behalf of the Company were: (1) that under Pennsylvania law a non-liquor licensee could not be held liable under the Pennsylvania Dram Shop Act; and (2) that Pennsylvania courts do not recognize social host liability for the service of alcohol to non-minors. In support of its arguments on behalf of the Company, Zarwin relied on a long line of Pennsylvania case law beginning with the Supreme Court’s holding in Manning v. Andy, 454 Pa. 237, 310 A.2d 75 (1973) and ending with the recent Superior Court holding in Klar v. Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., et al, 2021 PA Super 252 (2021). In response, the Plaintiffs argued that the issue was one of vicarious liability and common law negligence for failure to monitor and control an employee’s consumption of alcohol. The court rejected Plaintiff’s arguments and granted the Company’s preliminary objections in full, dismissing all claims against them.