Judge Upholds Ruling that Ramada Hotel in Ligonier PA Liable for Furnishing Alcohol to Minor Before Deadly Car Accident

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Sean Nemcheck, a 17-year-old western Pennsylvania resident, was killed in an alcohol-related automobile accident on February 19, 2006. A Pennsylvania common pleas judge in Ligonier, PA has upheld the ruling of an administrative law judge that found Sean's former employer, the Ramada of Historic Ligonier, liable in the teen's death. The judge upheld the finding that the Ramada is liable by failing to prevent Sean from obtaining and consuming alcoholic beverages while at work. At the time of the accident, Sean's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit for underage drivers in Pennsylvania.

The family of Sean Nemcheck, a 17-year-old who died in a car accident on February 19, 2006, can claim another small victory in their pursuit of legal justice. In case number 873 MD 2007, Judge Gary Caruso of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County has dismissed an appeal filed by Sean's former employer, Ramada of Historic Ligonier, thereby upholding the finding that the Ramada is liable for furnishing the minor with the alcohol linked to his fatal crash.

In charges brought by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control board last year in citation number 07-0361, an administrative law judge found the Ramada of Historic Ligonier liable by failing to prevent Sean from obtaining and consuming alcoholic beverages while at work. The Ramada appealed this ruling to the Court of Common Pleas, but Judge Caruso found sufficient evidence to uphold the administrative law judge's findings in the charges against Hospitality Group Services, Inc., which owns and operates the Ramada of Historic Ligonier. The opinion issued by the Judge Caruso upheld the finding that the Ramada failed to take the necessary steps to prevent Sean from obtaining alcohol while he was working on the premises on the eve of February 18 to February 19, 2006. In addition, the opinion upheld the finding that Sean was left unsupervised with access to the unlocked hotel bar for several hours from February 18 to February 19. At the time of his accident, Sean's blood alcohol level was 0.14. Pennsylvania drivers under the age of 21 are considered legally drunk if their blood alcohol concentration is above .02.

The penalty is a $1,200 fine and Responsible Alcohol Management Training. Additionally, in 2006, the Ramada pled guilty to 21 counts of violating child labor laws in case number NT-000285-06. Prior to his deadly accident, Sean clocked out at 3:06 am after working a 16-hour shift, which is in violation of the child labor laws.

The Ramada's Child Labor Law violations included allowing minors to work more than an 8- hour shift, to work later than 1 am on weekends, to work later than 7 pm when school was in session, to obtain a job without working papers, and to work in areas where alcohol was sold and dispensed. The Ramada was fined $4,200 and had to pay $39.50 in court costs.

Attorney Todd Berkey, a partner at Edgar Snyder & Associates, a law firm representing injured people, has filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of the Nemcheck family. "Although the Ramada's penalties are relatively minor, it is an acknowledgement of the legal responsibility that they have for their role in Sean's death," said Attorney Berkey. "We believe that Sean's fatal accident was a result of the irresponsible actions of the Ramada's owners and employees in failing to prevent him from having repeated access to alcohol and causing him to work a 16-hour shift." A court date has not been set for the wrongful death suit against Hospitality Group Services.

Edgar Snyder & Associates is a plaintiff's personal injury law firm with offices in Pittsburgh, Altoona, Ebensburg, Erie and Johnstown. For more information about Attorney Todd Berkey or the law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates, visit http://www.edgarsnyder.com.

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