Philadelphia Dram Shop Lawyers

$4.3 Million Settlement in Dram Shop Case in Philadelphia

The Legal Intelligencer
By Zack Needles
May 7, 2010

A woman who was rendered quadriplegic when the car she was a passenger in struck a tree in Chester County has reached a $4.3 million settlement with the bar and restaurant that allegedly served the driver after he was visibly intoxicated.

Plaintiff Jane Doe reached an agreement with defendants Dilworthtown Inn and Blue Pear Bistro, two West Chester, PA, restaurants, on April 9, following jury selection in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

In Jane Doe v. Dilworthtown Inn, Jane Doe had gone to the Dilworthtown Inn and the Blue Pear Bistro with her estranged husband, John Doe, a pro se defendant in the case, to discuss repairing their marriage over dinner and drinks on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the plaintiff’s settlement memorandum.

The couple first went to the Dilworthtown Inn, where a copy of the receipt from that night showed John Doe consumed two martinis and one beer, according to the plaintiff.

The couple then walked to the neighboring Blue Pear Bistro where John Doe, according to his testimony, consumed multiple martinis and beers, the plaintiff said.

When the couple left the Blue Pear Bistro at around 10 p.m. that night, John Doe drove since his wife had also consumed alcohol, the plaintiff said.

Their car struck a tree just a few miles from the bar, according to the plaintiff.

Jane Doe, who was flown to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for surgery, was rendered quadriplegic, the plaintiff said.

According to the plaintiff, Jane Doe is now dependent on others for daily living and mobility and will need lifelong medical care.

Alex Karras, the plaintiff’s expert life care plan specialist, calculated the cost of Jane Doe’s life care plan at more than $8 million.

She was also separated from her children and will never be able to work again, the plaintiff said.

The plaintiff said a state trooper and an EMT both testified that John Doe had glassy eyes, slurred speech and smelled of alcohol at the accident scene and John Doe corroborated this testimony at his own deposition.

Jane Doe testified that her husband had stumbled in the upstairs lounge at the Blue Pear Bistro, according to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff’s expert toxicologist, G. John DiGregorio, said John Doe’s blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was .186.

James Barnes, part owner of both the Dilworthtown Inn and the Blue Pear Bistro, testified that he was present at the Blue Pear Bistro the night of the accident and that part of his job description was to keep an eye out for drunk patrons leaving the bar, the plaintiff said.

But Steve DeLucia, a former Blue Pear Bistro employee, said Barnes would consume about nine alcoholic drinks a night while working and Christine Olmstead, a former Dilworthtown Inn employee, said Barnes was an alcoholic who was often drunk at work, according to the plaintiff.

Olmstead testified that on two separate occasions while working at the Dilworthtown Inn she wanted to stop serving alcohol to patrons whom she thought were too drunk, but manager Ron Bannister told her to keep serving them whatever they ordered, the plaintiff said.

But the Blue Pear Bistro said in its memorandum that the plaintiff “never produced a single non-interested witness” who could testify as to John Doe’s “physical appearance while present at the Blue Pear Bistro.”

Both the Blue Pear Bistro and the Dilworthtown Inn, in their separate memorandums, said John Doe had a long history of alcohol abuse that would have made his alcohol tolerance higher than someone who was not used to drinking in large quantities.

“Plaintiff’s allegation that defendant, John Doe, especially in light of his extensive history of alcohol consumption, was showing signs of visible intoxication after drinking two vodka martinis, while consuming a full meal of steak and lobster, is not only unsupported but illogical,” the Dilworthtown Inn said.

Both the Dilworthtown Inn and the Blue Pear Bistro said in their memorandums that Jane Doe had assumed the risk by getting in the car with John Doe, against whom she had a protection from abuse order still in effect at the time.

Both restaurant defendants alleged in their memorandums that Jane Doe had chosen to consume alcohol while on prescription medication and that she had not urged John Doe to stop drinking at any point during the evening.

They also said in their memorandums that Jane Doe had been aware that John Doe did not have a driver’s license at the time of the accident but still chose to get into a car with him without wearing a seat belt.

“The thing we were most concerned about was personal responsibility,” said Jane Doe’s attorney, Cherry Injury Law in Media, PA., referring to the potential for a jury to find his client responsible for choosing to get into the car with her husband.

In the end, Jane Doe agreed to settle with the Dilworthtown Inn and the Blue Pear Bistro for their individual insurance policy limits of $1 million each, plus an additional $2.3 million under the restaurants’ joint umbrella policy.

The plaintiff also collected $13,500 out-of-pocket from John Doe, who was an excluded driver on Jane Doe’s insurance policy, according to David R. Cherry.

The Blue Pear Bistro’s attorneys, Guy Mercogliano of Sweeney & Sheehan in Philadelphia and John J. Snyder of Rawle & Henderson in Philadelphia, did not immediately return calls for comment.

The Dilworthtown Inn’s attorney in this case, Walter H. Swayze III of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney in Philadelphia, as well as both the Dilworthtown Inn’s and the Blue Pear Bistro’s personal counsel, Patrick S. Mintzer of Buckley Brion McGuire Morris & Sommer in West Chester, e-mailed a joint statement on behalf of both restaurants.

“The owners of the Dilworthtown Inn and the Blue Pear Bistro vigorously denied liability since first learning of the unfortunate accident and continued to do so through the final resolution of this matter by its insurers,” the statement said. “The owners look forward to continuing the fine traditions of the Inn and the Bistro, and extend their best wishes to Jane Doe and her family.”

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