Drunk driver will recover $6.6 million from two Pennsylvania bars

by Walter Olson on December 20, 2013

“Two Northeastern Pennsylvania bars have settled for a combined $6.6 million with a man who became quadriplegic after driving drunk and crashing his car into a tree.” Jason Mercado sued two East Stroudsburg, Pa. bars on the theory that they had inexperienced bartenders and staff who should have known better than to serve him. Attorney Robert Sink, who represented Mercado, said the case was not without its difficulties: “if the jury found the drunk driver was more than 50 percent at fault, then he would have gotten nothing” under Pennsylvania law. The insurers defending the case decided that the risk of a verdict otherwise was worth $6.6 million. [Legal Intelligencer]

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12.30.13 at 9:15 am

{ 17 comments }

1 Ella 12.20.13 at 8:08 am

This is why people hate us.

2 DC 12.20.13 at 10:38 am

He settles for 6.6 million. Attorney gets 2.2 million for fee and additional for costs. The plaintiff gets $3.2 million??? With future expenses of $34 million??? So the taxpayers get hosed in the end under that mathematical outcome, as Medicare and SSDI will be picking up the tab once the money is gone.
Frustrating to see the civil law system abused just because some fool drank to excess, couldn’t control himself. Another victory for the trial lawyers and supporting the welfare compensation culture.

3 Mark Biggar 12.20.13 at 11:07 am

You can’t drink at two bars a once. What was the theory of liability for the bar where he didn’t have his last drink. Should not serving that last drink been considered an intervening act?

4 Ron Miller 12.20.13 at 1:02 pm

Maybe the victim already has medical insurance that will pay for much of the future costs and would be with or without a verdict. But he will also have a lot of money that will make an awful life a tiny bit less awful.

DC, an accident can have more than one cause. The bar could have easily stopped what happened (presumably based on the facts and the settlement). The victim is just completely innocent.

I understand the opposition to the imposition of liability on bars (even though I disagree with it). But the civil justice system has hardly been abused here. The legislature in PA made a law. This settlement is a logical extension of that law. The insurance company settled on what might have been 25 cents on the dollar.

5 Stephen Macklin 12.20.13 at 2:08 pm

There cannot be individual liberty without personal responsibility.

It looks more and more like we’re well on the way to have neither.

6 econobiker 12.20.13 at 3:55 pm

It would be different if plaintiff lawyers had to pay a portion of the defenses costs if the plaintiffs lost.

7 gitarcarver 12.20.13 at 4:00 pm

The victim is just completely innocent.

I’m sorry Ron, but I don’t see where the “victim” in the case was held down while people poured copious amounts of alcohol into his body.

The guy made a choice to drink, drink some more, then drive, and then test physics by seeing which object could take the most beating – his body, his car, or a tree.

I just don’t see him as an “innocent victim.”

8 Richard 12.20.13 at 5:19 pm

Press coverage indicates some potentially aggravating factors. At the first bar, a bartender was giving him free drinks, assured him she would drive him home when he suggested switching to seltzer and was already visibly drunk (according to other staff at the bar), and then later drove him to the second bar where he had more drinks. He passed out on a bench after a couple of drinks at the second bar, couldn’t find his friends, and his car keys were on a table. He then got in the car and drove. The liability of the first bar appears to relate strongly to the conduct of the particular bartender-also a defendant covered by the bar’s insurance policy.

9 Hugo S. Cunningham 12.20.13 at 6:09 pm

Settlements like this show up in insurance costs for bars, hence higher drink prices at bars. Some might consider that a desirable outcome, exerting downward pressure on consumption. (If prices rise too far, however, then the public will look for affordable alternatives from bootleggers and unregulated “parties.”)

10 Bill Poser 12.21.13 at 2:43 am

I just learned another fact from press coverage that increases my sympathy for the plaintiff: at the first bar, he gave the bartender his keys on her promise to drive him home. Instead of driving him home, she drove him to another bar and left his keys on the table. Granted, its foolish to drink that much, but it sounds like this guy made a serious effort not to drive drunk. I can’t imagine what the bartender from the first bar was thinking. I wonder if she shouldn’t be charged criminally, for e.g. reckless endangerment?

11 Daniel 12.21.13 at 5:50 am

This is why we in the rest of the world believe that the USA a retarded country. Nowhere else would this even become a legal issue. If a moron drives his car drunk, it’s his own fault. No one else’s. If you can’t handle your liquor, it’s your own fault, no one else’s. The “sue everyone for everything”-mentality in the US is supporting the view that Americans are stupid by default. If you don’t understand that coffe I hot-> here, have a few million dollars! If you don’t understand that cruise control won’t steer your car-> here have a few million dollars!
Reading these stories make me want to laugh an cry at the same time. Greatest country in the world? Yeah, right.

//European bachelor of law.

12 TexJudge 12.21.13 at 12:43 pm

The plaintiff was driving drunk when he crashed; in other words he was engaging in criminal activity namely DWI. Under traditional law an individual cannot collect for damages due to injuries caused while committing a crime. Otherwise, a bankrobber could sue the bank if he got shot by the guard during the robbery. Now if this dumbass had caused injuries to others while driving drunk that’s another story and that is why we have Dram Shop laws to protect innocent third parties. The drunk himself? He deserves nothing though after 40 years of attacks on the concept of individual responsibility I’m not surprised at this result.

13 MattS 12.22.13 at 11:30 pm

gitarcarver, Ron;

Apparently, they not only strapped him down and poured copious amounts of alcohol into his body, they also must have strapped him behind the wheel of a car.

14 Ron Miller 12.23.13 at 11:59 am

Hold on. Stop. Wait!

I could not pull the story up it was behind a wall. The drunk driver is the one who brought the claim?

All of the people on here would I usually agree disagree with? I’m with you on this one. I realize there were so bizarre circumstances that have been pointed to in this case that may have helped the plaintiff, but at the end of the day he is the one that chose to get in the car and he is the one that crashed that car. I feel great sympathy for him but I don’t think he should be compensated by the bar.

Now, I really question the wisdom in settling this case. The plaintiff had every right to file the claim. But I can’t imagine too many juries finding this guy not 51% responsible for the injuries. Some defense lawyers are chickens. You can’t put that on the civil justice system.

15 Anonymous Attorney 12.23.13 at 3:54 pm

OK, new thought.

THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IS PART OF THE PROBLEM HERE.

Because they seek to make a “business decision” by settling for $6 million, they bypass what should be a MORAL rejection of the demand (and yes, I see there were aggravating factors) by the plaintiff.

Same for so many of the country’s overabundance of frivolous personal injury suits.

THE SYSTEM WORKING AS AN EVIL WHOLE — greedy and undeserving plaintiffs, unscrupulous plaintiff’s attorneys, insurance companies and their business models, insurance defense lawyers looking to rack up billables, willing court systems, compliant legislatures and a clueless media — help to siphon off billions from consumers.

16 MattS 12.23.13 at 6:35 pm

Ron,

The quote in the original post above makes clear that the plaintiff was the drunk driver himself. No need to look behind some paywall.

“Two Northeastern Pennsylvania bars have settled for a combined $6.6 million with a man who became quadriplegic after driving drunk and crashing his car into a tree.”

I don’t see anyway you could read this as someone other than the drunk driver himself was the one who sued.

17 gitarcarver 12.23.13 at 7:53 pm

Hold on. Stop. Wait!

I could not pull the story up it was behind a wall. The drunk driver is the one who brought the claim?

From the Pennsylvania Record:

A New York man who is said to be paralyzed from the neck down due to injuries he sustained after driving home drunk from a northeastern Pennsylvania bar has reportedly reached a $6.6 million settlement in his Dram Shop case against the drinking establishments and a bartender.

Manolin Jason Mercado, 36, of the Bronx, N.Y., filed suit in December 2011 at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Pub 570, bartender Brittany Marie DeBias, and Sticks N Stones Bar and Grill over a May 2, 2010, vehicle accident that ended with the plaintiff suffering paralysis.

SOURCE: http://pennrecord.com/news/12392-drunk-driver-paralyzed-in-accident-reportedly-reaches-6-6-million-settlement-with-bars-in-dram-shop-case

Also here: http://articles.mcall.com/2013-12-11/news/mc-drunk-driver-settlement-east-stroudsburg-20131211_1_mercado-bars-drunk-driver

Nice to see you abandon the dark side on this one Ron. :)

Merry Christmas to you, your friends and family.

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