The last remaining defendant in a dram shop case in which three people were killed when a drunken driver’s truck collided with their car agreed Tuesday to settle for $1 million, an agreement that brings the total recovery in the case to about $12.7 million, according to plaintiffs counsel.
In the separate but consolidated Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas cases Higuero v. Linda K. Woodward Inc., Buskirk v. Linda K. Woodward Inc. and Ticson v. Linda K. Woodward Inc., the plaintiffs alleged defendant Anthony Bruno ran a red light while driving under the influence of alcohol and killed the driver and two passengers of another vehicle.
Court documents alleged Bruno had consumed more than 30 alcoholic beverages at a sports arena and three bars over the course of eight hours, as well as in the van that transported him there earlier that night.
According to plaintiff Jean McGill Higuero’s settlement memorandum, Bruno attended a hockey game in a luxury box at the Sovereign Center arena in Reading, Pa., on Jan. 27, 2010, as part of a promotion defendant All Star Distributing held for the bars that purchase alcohol from it.
All Star provided, free of charge, the tickets, van transportation to the game and unlimited alcohol both in the van and at the arena, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.
The van transported Bruno and several others from defendant bar Roosevelt’s, including at least 10 bar employees, to the game, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.
The plaintiff’s memorandum said Bruno had consumed two beers at home before going to Roosevelt’s with his friend, defendant Joseph Starace, who had agreed to act as the designated driver and take Bruno home at the end of the night.
Bruno testified at deposition that, because of this, he drank uninhibited throughout the evening, including at Roosevelt’s before the van arrived and during the van ride to the arena, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.
Bruno further testified that he consumed 15 to 20 beers in the Sovereign Center luxury box, where he was served free alcohol by employees of defendant SMG Food and Beverage, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.
After about two hours at the arena, Bruno and his group left in the van to go to Kutztown, Pa., where he went to two more bars—defendants K’Town Pub and Shorty’s—and consumed shots and beers before boarding the van again to head back to Roosevelt’s, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.
The plaintiff’s memorandum said Bruno continued to drink once the group arrived back at Roosevelt’s and eventually vomited.
Bruno was then unable to find Starace, his ride home, so he attempted to drive his own truck home from Roosevelt’s, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.
On the way home, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum, Bruno ran a red light and collided with a vehicle driven by Chad Horne, 22, who was driving two passengers, Terri Ann Buskirk, 43, and Robin Villegas, 52. Horne, Buskirk and Villegas all died of injuries sustained in the collision.
The plaintiffs accused the defendant bars and liquor distributors of serving Bruno while he was visibly intoxicated, according to court documents.
Defendant SMG, in its own mediation memorandum, disputed Bruno’s level of intoxication, arguing that he had consumed a large amount of carbohydrates during the hockey game that would have delayed his absorption of alcohol.
However, SMG further argued in its memorandum that, even if Bruno had been drunk at the arena, it’s unlikely he would have exhibited any visible signs of intoxication given his long history of alcohol abuse.
Defendant Linda K. Woodward Inc., the owner of Geiger’s Beverages, another beverage supplier whose employees drove the van from Roosevelt’s to the Sovereign Center as part of what it called the “customer appreciation” promotion, argued in its own memorandum that it had merely acted as a “social host.”
“At no point during the night did Geiger’s Beverages sell, furnish or give intoxicating beverages to Anthony Bruno,” the defendant said in its memorandum. “Geiger provided two cases of beer to Roosevelt’s at no charge as part of the social event. The beer in the van, both cans and bottles, therefore, belong to, and was under the control of Roosevelt’s.”
MDW Enterprises, the owner of Shorty’s, argued in an answer and new matter to the complaint that it never served Bruno while he was visibly intoxicated and that the other defendants in the case were negligent.
Ultimately, A Corner in Time—the store at the corner where the accident took place—and K’Town Pub settled with all three plaintiffs in November 2012 for $60,000 and $500,000, respectively, according to court documents.
In February, according to court documents, All Star and Linda K. Woodward Inc. settled with the plaintiffs for $4.5 million, defendant Backjama G. Enterprises Inc., the owner of Roosevelt’s, settled for $500,000 and Starace settled for $60,000.
In May, according to court documents, SMG settled for $6 million.
Origlio’s, which was in the process of purchasing Geiger’s at the time the suit was filed, agreed to settle for $15,000 in August.
Counsel for Higuero, the executor of Villegas’ estate, Kevin R. Marciano of Marciano & MacAvoy in Media, Pa., told The Legal that Bruno had offered his $60,000 policy limit at least a year ago but the plaintiffs could not accept it at the time because they wanted to preserve joint and several liability.
They accepted the offer Tuesday, however, when the last remaining defendant, MDW, agreed to settle for $1 million, Marciano said.
As part of their settlements and in addition to the money they agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ estates, defendants Roosevelt’s, SMG and Shorty’s agreed to donate a total of $15,500 to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and $5,000 to Students Against Destructive Decisions, according to Marciano.
Marciano, who represented Higuero with partner Patrick D. MacAvoy, said he thought the settlement was fair.
Counsel for Marvin L. Buskirk, the administrator of Terri Ann Buskirk’s estate, Erik J. Conrad of Thomas, Conrad & Conrad in Bethlehem, Pa., could not immediately be reached for comment at press time.
Counsel for Michael A. Horne, co-administrator of Chad Horne’s estate, Kelly C. Rambo of Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo in Bethlehem, also could not immediately be reached, nor could R.J. Brasko of Margle Law Offices in Bethlehem, who represented Carrie S. Ticson, the other co-administrator of the Horne estate.
Counsel for MDW, Charles B. Stokes of Russo & Toner in Trevose, Pa., also could not immediately be reached.