Superior Court to review lawsuit against Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
DALLAS – Is it a valet’s duty to stop a visibly intoxicated person from driving drunk?
That was a case before the state Superior Court during a special session at Dallas High School on Tuesday.
Richard Moranko, 38, of Old Forge, left Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains Twp. in January 2011 with a blood-alcohol level of .329 percent and died in a one-vehicle crash on Route 315 in Pittston Twp.
His wife, Faye Moranko, filed civil action against Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
Attorney Joseph Cosgrove said the valet should not have let Mr. Moranko get behind the wheel in a visibly intoxicated state.
Mr. Cosgrove pointed out Mohegan Sun has a Responsible Alcohol Management Program under Pennsylvania gaming laws. If the valet implemented its program, “this tragedy would not have occurred,” he argued. He said casino employees could have asked how he was doing, if he needed a cup of coffee or a cab.
“We’re not asking anything other than reasonable conduct by these people,” said Mr. Cosgrove, who was joined by attorney Jamie Anzalone. “When they have this visibly intoxicated driver and they simply give him the keys and send him out on the road, that cannot be the policy. It simply cannot be the law.”
Defense attorney David Heisler said the Responsible Alcohol Management Program involves not letting people gamble while intoxicated.
Mr. Heisler said Mr. Moranko was drunk before he arrived at the casino. He cited case laws stating the valet could not deny him the right to get his property back. A state police officer at the casino told the valet that Mr. Moranko’s keys must be returned to him, Mr. Heisler said.
“If you do not give the keys back, you are preventing someone from using their car. That, case law says, is conversion,” Mr. Heisler said. “He was drinking all day long. It was a choice he voluntarily made that day. It was not the responsibility of the casino for the condition he put himself in.”
Pennsylvania Superior Court Presiding Judge Jack A. Panella, Judge Sallie Updyke Mundy and Judge William Platt heard the case Tuesday.
Judge Panella questioned if the casino committed to other legal obligations besides holding onto Mr. Moranko’s vehicle and giving it back to him when he was ready to leave.
“Did they agree to supervise his conduct?” Judge Panella asked. “Did they agree to say, ‘We will make judgment calls on your behalf if we believe you are going to drive unsafely?'”
Luzerne County Judge William Amesbury previously heard the case and ruled in favor of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Pennsylvania Superior Court judges will review the case and did not set a timetable for their decision.