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August 2014

This blog focuses on the law in Pennsylvania and West Virginia (and other practical issues that arise) when a family member or friend is unfortunately lost due to an accidental death.

Valet Service Owed No Duty to Withhold Keys to Vehicle Even if Owner Was Visibly Intoxicated

In Moranko v. Downs Racing LP, 2014 WL 2861549*1 (Pa. Super. June 24, 2014), a mother filed a wrongful death and survival action arising from the death of her son from an automobile accident after the son left the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.  The mother alleged in the complaint that her son drank “copious amounts of alcohol” while at the Mohegan Sun and that its valet service gave her son the keys to his car while he was allegedly visibly intoxicated.  Id.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court found, as a matter of first impression in Pennsylvania, that Pennsylvania law did not impose “a duty upon Mohegan Sun and its valet service to withhold the keys to a vehicle if the owner appears visibly intoxicated.”  Id. at 2.  In fact, the court further found that the valet service “was duty bound to surrender control of the decedent’s vehicle when it was demanded, notwithstanding the decedent’s alleged intoxication.”  Id. at 4.   Although the court sympathized with the mother’s loss, the court could not find the Mohegan Sun’s valet service had the power to withhold the keys.  Id.   Thus, the court entered judgment in favor of Mohegan Sun on the mother’s claims against it for damages due to the death of her son.

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