$2,325,000 Recovery – Dram Shop – Alleged Service of Alcohol to Visibly Intoxicated Patron – Head-On Motor Vehicle Collision – Paraplegia – Wrongful Death
Northumberland County, PA
This dram shop action arose from an automobile accident involving a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver after he consumed alcohol at two Northumberland County, Pennsylvania bars. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant bars served the driver alcohol while he was visibly intoxicated. The defendants also included various owners, bartenders and managers of the bars involved, as well as their respective insurance carriers. The decedent’s fiance, who was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the collision, settled her claims with the defendants prior ot trial. The defendants denied the allegations.
The decedent was driving north on State Route 147 on the Priestley Bridge on May 15, 2016. The defendant driver was proceeding south over the bridge. The plaintiff contended that the defendant swerved into his lane and struck the decedent’s vehicle head-on. The defendant driver was charged with DUI and other related offenses as a result of the collision. The decedent was transported to the emergency room and diagnosed with spinal cord injuries rendering him a permanent paraplegic. The injuries ultimately led to the decedent’s death, according to the plaintiff’s claims.
The plaintiff maintained that the collision and the decedent’s ultimate death resulted from the defendant driver being served alcohol while visibly intoxicated at the two defendant bars and then being permitted to drive his vehicle in a drunken state. The plaintiff also claimed that the first defendant bar continued to serve Rum and Coke to the defendant driver in the months following the accident with the knowledge that he had caused serious injuries while driving drunk. The plaintiff contended that the second defendant tavern had been cited numerous times for Liquor Control Board violations before it allegedly over-served alcohol to the defendant driver.
The case was resolved prior to trial for a total of $2,325,000, representing available insurance policy limits.
Bitler vs. McCollum, et al. Case no. CV-17-909; Judge Paige Rosini, 12-18-19.
Attorney for plaintiff: Michael J. Pisanchyn, Jr. of the Pisanchyn Law Firm in Scranton, PA.
This was a very significant settlement in a dram shop action in the conservative venue of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. The case resolved for available insurance limits of $2,325,000. In light of the catastrophic injuries sustained, the subsequent death and the apparent culpability of the defendants; the recovery may have been higher, had there been additional insurance available. However, perhaps more importantly to the plaintiff family, there were other conditions to the resolution in an attempt to keep the community safe. A plaque is being placed in both defendant bars stating: “In loving memory of Scott Bitler that no one should be over served and a reminder to never drink and drive 1/2/1959-2/19/2019.”
The defendant agreed that all servers will be RAMP certified; there will be a written record of customer cut-offs; a cut-off customer will receive a non-alcoholic drink intoxicated customers will be detained, alternative transportation offered or the police called. In addition, donations from the bars’ games of chance will be donated in the decedent’s name.