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A Dram Shop Lawyer Discusses Conflict of Laws

Pennsylvania has adopted a flexible rule to resolve conflict of law issues.  Griffith v. United Airlines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964).  The Court abandoned a strict place of the accident rule “in favor of a more flexible rule which permits analysis of the policies and interests underlying the particular issue before the court.  Id. at 806.   The merit of such a rule is that “it gives to the place having the most interest in the problem paramount control over the legal issues arising out of a particular factual context and thereby allows the forum to apply the policy of the jurisdiction most intimately concerned with the outcome of the particular litigation”.  Id. at 805; Larrison v. Larrison, 750 A.2d 895, 898 (Pa. Super. 2000).

New Jersey’s only contact with this case is that the crash occurred there.  Absolutely everything else of relevance happened in Pennsylvania.  Defendant, MadRiver is a Pennsylvania Corporation (paragraph 4).  Its principal place of business is 126 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA  19106 (paragraph 5).  Plaintiff, Linda Ung, a Philadelphia resident, was appointed Administratrix of the Estate of Hort Kap by the Register of Wills of Philadelphia County (paragraph 7).  On the day of the crash, Defendant, Maher resided at 3903 City Ave, Apt. 609, Philadelphia, PA  19131 (paragraph 8).  At all relevant times, Defendant, Maher was employed as a soccer player by the Philadelphia Kixx professional indoor soccer team (paragraph 9).  He tore his anterior cruciate ligament while playing soccer for the Philadelphia Kixx in Philadelphia (paragraph 10).  He received medical treatment on the morning of March 6, 2009 for this knee injury, upon information and belief, at the Kixx facility at 3601 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA (paragraph 11).

It is further alleged that Defendant, Maher operated a 2007 Cadillac Escalade, owned by his brother, Michael J. Maher of 304 Market Street, Unit B, Philadelphia, PA  19106 (paragraph 12). Maher picked up Defendant, Filachek at the latter’s home at 617 Green Lane, Philadelphia, pa (paragraph 13).  They drove to Defendant, Nodding Head Brewery, 15th and Sansom, Philadelphia, PA, where, upon information and belief, they dined and drank alcoholic beverages in each other’s presence (paragraph 14). After leaving Nodding Head Brewery, Defendant, Maher drove Defendant, Filachek to Defendant, Urban Saloon, 22nd and Fairmount, Philadelphia PA, where, upon information and belief, they dined and drank alcoholic beverages in each other’s presence (paragraph 15).  They left Urban Saloon at approximately 12:45 a.m. and drove to Defendant, Mad River, 4100 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA (paragraph 16).

Defendant, MadRiver was a licensee of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and was engaged in the furnishing, sale and service of alcoholic beverages to its patrons for reasonable consumption on the premises (paragraph 59).  As the owner and holder of a Pennsylvania retail liquor license, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, 47 P.S. Section 4-401, Defendant, Mad River was entitled to sell and dispense intoxicating beverages for reasonable consumption on the premises by guests, patrons and/or members (paragraph 60).

All six of the parties to this litigation reside in Philadelphia.  Defendant, Mad River baldly contends that Defendants, Maher and Filachek reside in New Jersey.  This is belied by the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint (paragraphs 8 and 13).  For purposes of these Preliminary Objections, the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint must be accepted as true.  Commonwealth v. Percudani, 825 A.2d 743 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003).

Griffith, supra, involved a Colorado airplane crash that resulted in the death of a Pennsylvania domiciliary.  The Court held that Pennsylvania had a great interest in the amount of recovery.  Id. at 807.  “Our Commonwealth, the domicile of decedent and his family, is vitally concerned with the administration of decedent’s estate and the well-being of the surviving dependents to the extent of granting full recovery, including expected earnings. This policy is so strong that it has been embodied in the Constitution of Pennsylvania, Article III, § 21Id.  Similarly, Pennsylvania is greatly interested in the administration of decedent’s Pennsylvania estate and the well-being of the surviving children of Hort Kap, all of whom reside in Philadelphia.  As the host state for the Estate of Hort Kap, it is highly interested that its Wrongful Death and Survival statutes be applied.

Pennsylvania obviously also has an intense interest in the outcome of the dram shop allegations against the three Philadelphia taverns involved in this litigation.  If the evidence reveals that one of more of these dram shops served a visibly intoxicated patron, leading to the death of an innocent motorist, those dram shops will merit the consequences deemed appropriate by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.  Defendant cannot credibly suggest that Pennsylvania’s dram shop laws are inapplicable to this case.  Yet, Defendant nevertheless contends that New Jersey’s Wrongful Death and Survival statutes apply to this dispute between Philadelphia residents.  That claim is simply not borne out by common sense or an analysis of the competing state interests in the outcome of this litigation.

New Jersey has absolutely no interest in the outcome of this litigation, nor does Defendant suggest any.  Its criminal laws have been applied and upheld.  Its interest in the criminal aspect of this case has been resolved and Maher sits in a jail cell.  With that, New Jersey’s interest in this case has concluded.  None of New Jersey’s rights against Matthew Maher will be impaired by the application of Pennsylvania law to this suit for civil damages.  Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has an ongoing interest in this litigation.  In sum, both the quality and quantity of Pennsylvania’s contacts with this litigation dramatically outweigh New Jersey’s.

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