Harrisburg, PA- Whose responsibility is it to stop a drunken driver? Should a valet who hands an intoxicated driver the keys ultimately responsible if that driver dies? Those are two questions facing a Pennsylvania court and their final decision could set a precedent in future cases.
The case centers on a fatal DUI accident from January 2011 involving Richard Moranko, who was intoxicated when he left a casino after a night of drinking. Moranko was three times the legal limit and visibly intoxicated when a valet for the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in the Plains Township handed him his keys.
Moranko died after he crashed his vehicle on State Route 315 and his mother filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the casino had the responsibility to prevent her son from driving that night.
The case is being heard by the Pennsylvania Superior Court to determine of Ms. Moranko’s civil case can be heard by a jury.
During testimony last week, attorney Joseph Cosgrove, who is representing Ms.Moranko argued that under state gaming rules the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs had a responsibility to keep Richard Moranko from driving that fateful night, according to the Times-Tribune. Cosgrove said had the valet implement their Responsible Alcohol Management Program and asked Mr. Moranko if he was okay or needed some coffee or a cab his accident could have been prevented.
“We’re not asking anything other than reasonable conduct by these people,” Mr. Cosgrove said during testimony according to the Time-Tribune. “When they have this visibly intoxicated driver and they simply give him the keys and send him out on the road, that cannot be the policy. It simply cannot be the law.”
Witnesses said the valets laughed at the very intoxicated Moranko and rolled their eyes at him. The valets then gave him his keys and a short while later he was dead.
Attorneys for the casino argued that Moranko was intoxicated when he arrived at the casino and no one witnessed him drinking while on the premises. They surmised he was already drunk when he arrived since his blood alcohol level was 0.329 and he was only at the casino for approximately 40 minutes.
Defense attorney David Heisler also said the Responsible Alcohol Management Program is intended to prevent people from gambling while they are intoxicated valets were required to return Moranko’s car to him under Pennsylvania law.
The Superior Court is still reviewing the case and has given no timetable on when they will hand down a decision.
If the judges side in favor of the Ms. Moranko, the decision will make the casino liable for negligence by returning Richard Moranko’s keys and allowing him to drive in such an inebriated state.
Siding with the casino could derail Ms. Moranko’s civil suit and release them of liability in her son’s death.
Moranko’s untimely death could have been prevented, but he made the mistake many others make; he thought he was safe to drive when he clearly wasn’t. The Superior Court must decide if someone else had a responsibility to stop him or if Moranko was solely responsible for his actions.