$12.7 Million Wrongful Death/Drunk Driving Settlement
Chad Horne, age 22, Terri Ann Busbirk, 43 year old mother of two children, and Robin Villegas, 52 year old mother of three were killed because of the actions of a drunk driver and the institutions that enabled an evening of alcohol inspired debauchery.
Kevin Marciano, the Philadelphia area’s leading attorney in litigation involving taverns that serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons, has settled a case involving the tragic loss of these three innocent lives.
Kevin and I co-counseled another wrongful death/drunk driving case in 2012. To read about that case, click here.
The settlement included $15,500 Charitable contributions to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) by 2 Bar defendants and a $5000 Charitable contribution to SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) by one bar defendant.
The complete story is available in Marciano’s Mediation Memorandum, which is summarized here.
At about just after midnight on January 28, 2010, Terri Ann Buskirk, Chad Horne and Robin Villegas, were returning from a funeral viewing and were traveling on Easton Road, Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to them, Anthony Bruno had consumed in excess of 30 alcoholic beverages and was racing toward them in his full-size Dodge Dakota truck. Bruno was speeding at an estimated 70-80 mph in a 40-mph zone when he collided into Mr. Horne’s 1999 Infinity I30, ending the lives of Terri Ann Buskirk, Chad Horne and Robin Villegas.
Bruno’s blood alcohol content was nearly triple the legal limit, 0.23. He had been on a sponsored group van trip to a hockey game at the Sovereign Center in Reading. Over the course of 8 hours, he consumed at least 30 drinks on the van ride, at the arena, and at no fewer than three bars. He had made arrangements for his friend to be his designated driver but this friend disappeared at the end of the evening. Mr. Bruno pled guilty to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of alcohol. He is currently serving a seven-and-one-half- to fourteen-year sentence in state prison.
An outing with transportation and other benefits was planned by All Star Distributing. It was arranged that on January 27, 2010 a group of people, including Bruno, would attend a hockey game in a luxury box at the Sovereign Center in Reading. Bruno explained that the night was a promotion by All Star Distributing for the bars that would buy alcohol from it. John Fox, an employee of All Star was the driver of the van that transported Bruno and others from Roosevelt’s bar to the arena. Mr. Fox was accompanied by a co-employee on outing. Further, All Star provided free of charge the van, the tickets, and unlimited alcohol in the van and at the arena. Bruno explained that there were at least ten Roosevelt’s employees on the trip, including two owners, Greg Mehlman and Bill Cornish, and two managers, Tom Urglavitch and Marie Sedlock.
Prior to arriving at Roosevelt’s to travel to the arena, Bruno had consumed about 2 beers at his home. Bruno travelled from his home to Roosevelt’s with his good friend, Joseph Starace. Starace agreed to drive Mr. Bruno home since Bruno was going to “get pretty hammered”. In light of his designated driver, Bruno proclaimed that he did not restrict his alcohol consumption in any way. After meeting at Roosevelt’s, but prior to boarding the van, Bruno consumed alcohol inside Roosevelt’s. At approximately 4:40 p.m., the group, including Bruno, boarded the van to travel to the arena. Both All Star and Roosevelt’s provided beer for the van ride to the arena and Bruno admitted to drinking four to five beers on the ride there.
At approximately 6:00 p.m, the van arrived at the Sovereign Center arena. While at the arena, the alcohol in the luxury box was served by SMG’s workers. Bruno stated that while he was at the arena, he only consumed beer that he obtained from the luxury box. The beer was free of charge and was unlimited in supply. Bruno explained that he drank fifteen to twenty beers while in the luxury box at the Sovereign Center. Bruno admitted that he was drinking the beer “fairly fast” in the luxury box.
About two hours after arriving at the arena, Bruno left in the van with the group to go to Kutztown. He went to at least two bars, K-town Pub and Shorty’s, but he is uncertain which one he went to first. Despite Bruno admitting to feeling drunk at the first bar, he ordered, consumed, paid for and was served at least one Jack Daniels and Coke and a Coors Light Beer. Bruno went to a second bar and was served and drank beer and shots, and then he went to a third unknown bar.
Mr. Fox, an All Star employee who was the van driver and not drinking, appears to have a more complete recollection of the evening. In his handwritten statement, he wrote that at 8:00 p.m. the group left the arena and proceeded to K-town Pub where he observed Bruno and others consume “numerous shots and beers.” Also, while at K-town Pub, Roosevelt’s owner, William Cornish, observed Bruno “…getting pretty rowdy and tried to start a fight.” At 9:45 p.m. on the walk over to Shorty’s, Mr. Fox observed Bruno stumbling and committing a random act of violence when Bruno struck the windshield of a parked car “very hard.” At Shorty’s, William Cornish “cut off’ Bruno from drinking. Apparently, Mr. Cornish was not keeping a close eye on Bruno as Mr. Fox witnessed Bruno and others “take multiple shots and multiple beers.”
Mr. Fox wrote that at 10:15 p.m. he began driving the van full of people back to Roosevelt’s and most were intoxicated, loud and obnoxious. Bruno testified that he probably drank beer on the van ride back from Kutztown to Roosevelt’s. Mr. Cornish stated that despite cutting off Bruno earlier in the evening he permitted Bruno to consume “at most 2 beers” on the ride back. The group in the van not only included Bruno but two owners of Roosevelt’s and two of its managers. Upon arriving at Roosevelt’s, Mr. Fox and his All Star Beverage co-worker, Rachel Spatt, identified that “… it was very clear that Tony [Mr. Bruno] was intoxicated” and should not drive home. Further, William Cornish, owner of Roosevelt’s stated that “…pretty much everyone was over the limit to drive so they had everyone stay at the bar to chill out for a while to sober up.”
Despite being told by the owner and manager of Roosevelt’s that he was not permitted to drink at Roosevelt’s, and despite that the owner and manager were supposedly keeping a close eye on him because Bruno was the most intoxicated, there is security video footage showing Bruno inside Roosevelt’s near the bar doing a shot of alcohol. There were numerous statements taken revealing that Bruno was visibly intoxicated when he returned to Roosevelt’s. While Mr. Bruno was inside Roosevelt’s, it appeared that he had his arm around Marie Sedlock, a Roosevelt’s manager. Also, there were numerous other Roosevelt’s employees around Mr. Bruno when he consumed the shot. Mr. Bruno further explained that Roosevelt’s owner, Billy Cornish, was directly next to him in the video when he consumed the shot. According to the video and various statements, Bruno vomited while at Roosevelt’s.
Unable to find his friend and designated driver, Joseph Starace, Bruno left Roosevelt’s in his vehicle in a state of drunkenness. Bruno passed cars on the right and left of a two lane roadway and drove at a high rate of speed that was estimated at 70-80 miles per hour. Ultimately, he ran a red light and struck and killed Robin Villegas, Chad Horne and Terri Ann Buskirk.
While Bruno was at the hospital, he smelled of alcohol, he was irate, belligerent, uncooperative, and he threatened physical harm to hospital personnel. In fact, when asked if he had been drinking he replied, “Hell yeah I was drinking tonight.”
Bruno admitted that he had a red light, he failed to stop at the red light, and, as a result, he killed three innocent people. He admitted that he was unfit to drive since he was under the influence of alcohol.
On the night he passed away, Mr. Horne, the driver, was 22 years old. In addition to the unimaginable pain he endured during the collision itself, Mr. Horne’s future lost lifetime earning capacity is approximately $2,016,000 – $2,832,000.
On the night she passed away, Ms. Buskirk, a passenger, was 43 years old with a husband and two children, both of whom depended on her for care and financial support. In addition to the unimaginable pain she endured during the collision itself, Mrs. Buskirk’s future lost earning capacity is approximately $1,025,481.60.
On the night she passed away, Ms. Villegas was 52 years old with three children, all of whom depended on her for care, guidance and financial support. In addition to the unimaginable pain she endured during the collision itself, Ms. Villegas’ future lost earning capacity is approximately $540,000.
The $12,705,500 settlement broke down as follows:
$6,000,000 Spectacor Management Group
$4,500,000 Geiger Beverage & Allstar
$1,000,000 Shortys bar (MDW Enterprises LLC)
$500,000 Kutztown Pub
$60,000 Joe Starace
$60,000 Corner in Time
$15,500 charitable contributions to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) by two bar defendants
$5000 charitable contribution to SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) by one bar defendant