Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pennsylvania Superior Court Reaffirms Ruling - No Duty On Valet Service to Withhold Keys From Drunk Driver

In its June 10, 2015 decision in the case of Moranko v. Downs Racing LP, d/b/a Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, 2015 Pa. Super. 137 (Pa. Super. June 10, 2015 en banc) (Majority Opinion by Panella, J.) (Dissenting Opinion by Mundy, J., joined by Bender, P.J.E. and Donahue, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that valet parkers have no obligation to withhold the keys from drunken drivers.  

 In this matter, the Plaintiff was asserting that the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino was negligent when a valet returned the keys to a driver who was thereafter killed in a single vehicle accident just off the premises of the casino.   The decedent’s mother filed suit alleging that the casino was negligent in serving her son alcohol while he was visibly intoxicated and for given back the keys.  

The Defendant casino prevailed on a summary judgment motion at the trial court level.   The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed on the initial appeal back in June of 2014.   [Click HERE to view the Tort Talk Blog Posts to the trial court and initial Superior Court decisions].
With this en banc decision, the Pennsylvania Superior Court again affirmed the trial court’s ruling.  

In the majority Opinion, the court noted that, on this issue of first impression, it could not find that, as a matter of law, the casino “had the power, yet alone the duty, to withhold the decedent’s keys” under the circumstances presented.  

Reviewing analogous law under social host cases, as well as law from other jurisdictions, the court found that a parking lot attendant cannot be held liable for returning the car to an intoxicated owner, in part, because the attendant is required by law to return property on demand.   

The majority opinion written by Judge Jack A. Panella and joined in by President Judge Susan Peikes Gantman and Judges Kate Ford Elliott, Jacqueline O. Shogan, Judith Ference Olson and Paula Francisco Ott can be viewed HERE.

The dissenting opinion written by Judge Sallie Updyke Mundy and joined in by Judge John T. Bender and Judge Christine L. Donohue can be viewed HERE.

According a local news article on the decision, Plaintiff’s attorney noted an intention to appeal this novel issue to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

UPDATEIn a February 25, 2016 Order, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied the Petition for Allowance of Appeal filed by the Plaintiff.  Click this LINK to view that Order.

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