$2.5M Verdict to Wife of Man Killed By Drunk Driver in Dram Shop Case

A $2.5 million jury verdict has been received by the wife of a Perry County, Pa., man who was killed in a 2013 car crash with a drunken driver.

The drunken driver, Jason R. Madden, 32, had been served alcoholic beverages in a local bar for more than six hours before getting behind the wheel and causing the crash, according to a Nov. 18 story in The Legal Intelligencer.

The crash killed Keith Kerlin, 42, who was driving east in the eastbound lane of Route 22/322 in his Oldsmobile vehicle on March 12, 2013, at 1:08 a.m. in Greenwood Township in Perry County, according to the story.

Madden’s car struck Kerlin’s vehicle head-on, killing them both, according to a March 13, 2013 story in The (Carlisle) Sentinel. Madden was traveling the wrong way – driving westbound in the eastbound lanes – when his Lexus crashed straight into Kerlin’s vehicle, the paper reported.

Madden had been drinking alcoholic beverages including beer and hard liquor at a bar called the Creekside Inn, starting at roughly 6:10 p.m. that day and continuing for more than six hours, according to The Legal Intelligencer story. He was “extremely intoxicated” at the time of the impact, with a blood alcohol content of .268 percent, according to family’s lawsuit.

Other patrons offered to give Madden a ride home after he became intoxicated and when it was “obvious that he could not safely operate his own motor vehicle,” the lawsuit stated. A bartender had “flagged” Madden because he was intoxicated, but “Madden continued to order and was served alcohol,” the complaint alleged.

The bar denied any wrong-doing and “and contended that it did not fail to properly train its employees so as to prevent them from serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons, as the plaintiff had alleged,” the Intelligencer story reported.

The verdict was reached by a 12-member Perry County jury after two hours of deliberations, following a two-day trial, the story reported. The deceased driver who caused the crash, Madden, was found to be 80 percent negligent in the crash, while the bar that served him, the Creekside Inn, was found to be 20 percent negligent, the story reported.

The jury awarded $1 million for wrongful death and $1.5 million for a survival action to Kerlin’s widow, Terri, the story reported.

Under dram shop laws, bar owners and other people who make a profit selling alcohol are 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, 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. In this case the dram shop laws were upheld.

With the holidays here, this case is a stark reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving as well.

These kinds of legal cases occur every day when innocent victims are severely hurt or killed in vehicle crashes through no fault of their own due to the actions, inattentiveness or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

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.