$12.7 Million Settlement in Bethlehem, Pa., DUI Crash That Killed 3 People in 2010

The families of three people who were killed by a drunk driver in Bethlehem, Pa., in 2010 have reached settlements totaling $12.7 million from a series of businesses and bars that served the driver of a pickup truck who caused the crash.

The settlements were made to the families of the victims who were killed in the crash, which included Chad Horne, 22, of Freehold, N.J.; Robin Villegas, 52, of Staten Island, N.Y.; and Terri Ann Buskirk, 45, of Bethlehem, according to a Nov. 8 story in The Reading Eagle. The crash occurred on Jan. 28, 2010, when Anthony R. Bruno of Bethlehem Township, Northampton County, “consumed more than 30 drinks during and after a group trip to a Reading Royals hockey game and then crashed his pickup truck into a car,” killing the victims, the paper reported.

The families of the victims filed wrongful death lawsuits in 2012 against Bruno and the businesses that served him that night.

The settlements include payments from a multitude of defendants. A $6 million payment comes from Spectacor Management Group, which owns the venue, now called Santander Arena, where the Reading Royals play hockey and where Bruno was served many alcoholic drinks in a luxury box, while another $1 million settlement payment comes from Shorty’s Bar in Kutztown, where Bruno also drank before the fatal crash, the paper reported.

Another $4.5 million of the settlement in the case is coming from Geiger’s Beverages, an Allentown beer distributor that organized the hockey outing which Bruno attended in the luxury box at the arena that night, according to a Nov. 6 story in The (Easton) Express-Times.  Also included in the settlements are payments of $15,000 from Origlio’s Beverage in Philadelphia, and $50,000 from Bruno’s insurance provider, the paper reported.

Bruno, who was 25 years old at the time of the crash, is now serving up to seven-and-a-half to 18 years in state prison after pleading guilty in 2012 to charges of homicide by vehicle while driving drunk.

The wrongful death lawsuits alleged that Bruno continued to be served by the establishments even though he was visibly drunk that night, the paper reported. “Villegas, Buskirk and their designated driver, Horne, had just left a wake for Horne’s grandmother when Bruno’s truck slammed into their vehicle at Easton Avenue and Willow Park Road shortly after midnight Jan. 28, 2010. All three died at the scene,” The Express-Times reported. “Bruno drank on his way to a hockey game in Reading, at the game and at stops on the way home that evening, records say.”

The paper reported that Bruno had a 0.23 blood-alcohol content level after the crash, which is nearly three times the 0.08 legal limit in Pennsylvania.

In his plea agreement with the courts, Bruno stated that he drank between 15 and 20 beers at the hockey game, then consumed drinks at a minimum of three bars in the Kutztown area, but couldn’t remember details after that point, according to The Express-Times coverage.

“Police said Bruno was speeding and driving erratically as he drove east on Easton Avenue near the Bethlehem-Bethlehem Township border. He had sped through at least two red lights and was going through a third when he crashed his 2006 Dodge Dakota into the victims’ vehicle at the corner of Easton Avenue and Willow Park Road,” the paper reported.

Two of the victims, Villegas and Horne, were cousins, according to the paper.

The settlements in this case are based on the legal concept of “dram shop” actions, which make bar owners and other people who make a profit selling alcohol responsible for the consequences of continuing to serve alcohol to someone who is over the limit. Dram laws also apply if the person who is served alcohol is underage. By serving additional drinks to someone and then allowing them to leave the establishment in that condition, the tavern owners can be held responsible for injuries to others. If a person is visibly intoxicated, the law says that a tavern owner should cease serving alcohol at that point.

Pennsylvania’s Dram shop liability law is named for a “dram shop,” which is a 1700’s term for a tavern that sold alcoholic drinks by the then-popular dram, which is a small unit of measure. The dram laws are there to help victims and their families when they are hugely impacted through the deaths of loved ones at the hands of drunk drivers whose drinking binges are not halted by the keen observations of restaurant and bar staff members in a moment’s notice. Dram shop rules exist to protect society as a whole and to punish bars and restaurants that continue to serve alcohol to customers who are already intoxicated.

Tavern owners must know that continuing to serve patrons once they are intoxicated is not acceptable, and that they will be held accountable.

The tragedy of this horrific crash and its aftermath is immeasurable for these families. Yet these kinds of cases occur every day when innocent victims are hurt in vehicle crashes, often caused by drunk drivers, through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That is where having a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award is key.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle incident or accident anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.