|By Rich Cholodofsky, Tribune-Review,
Greensburg, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
August 2, 2007 - The parents of a Cook teenager killed in a traffic accident last year filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday alleging that his employers allowed him to work too long and to drink alcohol while on the job.
In a four-count lawsuit, mother Terri Nemcheck contends the owners of the Ramada Inn of Historic Ligonier were negligent when they allowed her 17-year-old son, Sean, to work a 16-hour shift, to have access to alcoholic beverages while still working and then drive home drunk.
Sean Nemcheck worked as a dishwasher and a waiter at the hotel. He was killed Feb. 19, 2006, when his pickup crashed through a fence and was almost submerged in a pond along McDowell Road in Ligonier Township shortly after 3 a.m. as he drove home from work.
Authorities said the teenager had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent at the time of the crash. A motorist is considered intoxicated under Pennsylvania law with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent.
According to the lawsuit, the Nemchecks contend the hotel should not have allowed him to work so long. Nemcheck's shift started at 11 a.m. on Feb. 18 and he worked through 3 a.m. on Feb. 19, the suit alleges.
It alleges the hotel knew that the teenager had unfettered access to alcoholic beverages while working, citing a two-hour stint when he was left unsupervised from 1 to 3 a.m.
The Nemchecks are seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.
"This had been going on for such a long period of time I don't see how they didn't know about it," said Nemcheck family attorney Todd Berkey. "When you leave a 17-year-old around alcohol unsupervised bad things are going to happen. We think this is egregious conduct by the Ramada to allow this to go on."
Hotel co-manager Debra Fox yesterday declined comment on the lawsuit.
Hospitality Group Services, corporate owners of the Ligonier hotel, pleaded guilty to 21 violations last August of violating child labor laws in Nemcheck's case and was sentenced to pay a fine of $4,239.
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