Moranko v. Downs Racing, LP, 192 MDA 2013 (June, 2015)

Pennsylvania Superior Court holds valet service owes no duty to an allegedly intoxicated patron in wrongful death and survival action.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed summary judgment in this Luzerne County wrongful death and survival action brought by the appellant, Faye Moranko, the administrator of the estate of her son, Richard Moranko, who was killed in an automobile accident after leaving the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino. The appellant alleged that the decedent consumed “copious amounts of alcohol” while at Mohegan Sun and was allowed to retrieve his vehicle from the valet services, despite his alleged “visible intoxication.” The appellant claimed that Mohegan Sun was negligent in serving the decedent alcoholic beverages and in handing over the keys to his vehicle while visibly intoxicated. On summary judgment, Mohegan Sun argued that Moranko failed to produce sufficient evidence that it served the decedent alcoholic beverages while visibly intoxicated, and that no cause of action in Pennsylvania existed that would allow recovery against a valet service for giving a visibly intoxicated customer the keys to his vehicle. The Superior Court accepted Moranko’s contention that the decedent was visibly intoxicated, but found that Pennsylvania law, under a bailor-bailee analysis, does not impose a duty upon a valet service to withhold keys to a vehicle if the owner appears visibly intoxicated. The court reasoned that a mutual bailment had arisen between the decedent and Mohegan Sun’s valet service. Thus, Mohegan Sun’s valet service, as a bailee, was duty-bound to surrender control of the decedent’s vehicle, notwithstanding alleged intoxication, as Mohegan Sun’s valet service had lost any right to control the vehicle when the decedent requested its return.

Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2016

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