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Can valets face liability under dram shop laws? (2 of 2)

Welcome back. Last week, we began discussing an interesting legal topic involving Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws. As you have probably heard, bar owners and even party hosts can be held liable under the state’s dram shop laws for over-serving patrons or guests who go on to cause drunk driving accidents.

But what about valets? A recent article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette addressed this legal issue after a South Side bar worker said she saw valets handing over car keys to numerous drivers who looked intoxicated last month over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

According to an experienced attorney and a professor of advanced tort law at the University of Pittsburgh, it is unlikely that valets could be held liable after allowing drunk customers to drive. That’s because "a valet is not a liquor licensee” and does not serve alcohol, so the dram shop laws don’t apply, he said.

However, the issue is currently before the state Superior Court in a lawsuit against Mohegan Sun Casino in Luzerne County. The lawsuit was filed by the family of a Pennsylvania man who died after colliding with a tractor trailer. The man was intoxicated that night, and his family argued that the casino valet should have recognized this and called him a cab.

The case was thrown out by a Luzerne County Common Pleas Court judge who determined that the man had not consumed alcohol at the casino, and Pennsylvania’s dram shop duties currently do not extend to valets. The family filed an appeal and is currently awaiting a decision from the state Superior Court.

The decision could potentially affect dram shop liability in the state and change the current belief that valet drivers cannot be held responsible after handing over car keys to drunken drivers.

How do you think the court should rule?

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Valet liability very low in drunk driving cases,” Jon Schmitz, March 18, 2014

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