Pennsylvania’s appellate court issued a ruling last week which limited the liability of valets and their employers when intoxicated drivers are returned their keys and subsequently cause an accident.
On January 11, 2011, a valet working for the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, returned keys to Richard Moranko, 38. After leaving the casino, Moranko was involved in a single-car accident which took his life. Tests later determined that Moranko’s blood alcohol content was 0.329 percent, more than four times the legal limit.
Moranko’s mother, Faye Moranko, filed a lawsuit alleging that the casino was negligent in serving alcohol to her son, who was visibly intoxicated, and for giving him the keys to his car.
The casino was granted summary judgment in 2012 and Moranko’s mother appealed.
After losing the appeal last June, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which is one of two appellate courts in Pennsylvania allowed Moranko’s mother to reargue the case.
Once again, the court held for the casino.
“While we sympathize greatly with Moranko’s loss, we cannot find that, as a matter of law, Mohegan Sun had the power, let alone the duty, to withhold the decedent’s keys,” the judges wrote in their ruling, acknowledging the case is the first of its kind for the state.
The casino relied upon a state Supreme Court decision that held a social host with no right of control over a drunk guest’s vehicle could not be held liable for negligence. It also relied on a Nevada Supreme Court case which established that a parking lot attendant cannot be liable for returning a car to an intoxicated owner because the attendant is required by law to return the property on demand.