Bucks County, PA.
A Pennsylvania pedestrian who was catastrophically injured when struck by a drunk driver has settled his claim against the Tavern where the drunk driver had been previously drinking. The claim was brought under the Pennsylvania “Dram Shop” Statute, which prohibits bars from serving alcohol to any patron who is visibly intoxicated. The case settled for one million dollars, which was the full amount of the Tavern’s Dram Shop insurance coverage.
The bar’s main defense was that its staff did not know that the driver was drunk when they served him alcohol. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Brandon Swartz of the Swartz Culleton firm, explained that “a Dram Shop claim is difficult to prove because the Statute requires the victim prove that the tavern had actual knowledge it served its patron to the point of intoxication.” Early in the litigation, the investigating police officer testified that immediately after the accident, the driver acted like he was intoxicated. Attorney Swartz argued that the officer’s testimony was sufficient circumstantial evidence that the driver must also have been obviously drunk when he was at the Tavern. “Whether this evidence was enough,” said Swartz, “caused us some concern, so we kept digging.” According to Swartz, “the plaintiff caught a break in the case when we found a new witness, a co-worker of the driver, who admitted that on a prior occasion, he and the driver had visited the same Tavern, and the Tavern had served both men well past the point of intoxication.” Shortly after this co-worker testified, the insurance company agreed to pay the full amount of the policy.