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A Pennsylvania Judge Upholds Facts in Wrongful Death Suit of Teen
Against Hospitality Group Services, Owners of Ramada of Historic Ligonier

By Rich Cholodofsky, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Mar. 3, 2010--A wrongful death lawsuit against a Ligonier hotel will go forward with a ruling by a Westmoreland County judge determined a teenager killed in a car crash in 2006 had been allowed to drink alcohol on the job before leaving work after an extended shift.

Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. ruled that facts from previously litigated issues are to be considered as true in the ongoing lawsuit filed by the family of Sean Nemcheck.

Nemcheck, 17, of Cook Township was killed Feb. 19, 2006, when his pickup crashed through a fence and nearly submerged in a pond on McDowell Road in Ligonier Township.

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 or higher. The applicable level for a driver younger than 21 is 0.02 percent.

The lawsuit contends that Hospitality Group Services, the owner of the Ramada of Historic Ligonier, was at fault for Nemcheck's death because it allowed him to work a 16-hour shift as a dishwasher and waiter and gave him unfettered access to alcoholic beverages.

McCormick ruled that because several factual findings were made by other judges, first by an administrative law judge for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement and again by another Common Pleas Court judge, those court findings will be incorporated into the Nemcheck lawsuit.

And those facts include findings that the teen had unsupervised access to alcohol; that the bar area was unlocked and alcohol was readily accessible; that the hotel's bartender left two minors unsupervised for nearly two hours; that the Ramada was on notice that minors had access to alcohol on the premises; and that in a prior legal proceeding it was ruled that the hotel had furnished alcohol to Nemcheck.

That latter finding resulted in a $1,200 fine imposed against the Ramada by the Liquor Control Board for allowing Nemcheck, a minor, to drink alcohol.

In August 2006, Hospitality Group Services, corporate owners of the Ligonier hotel, pleaded guilty to 21 violations of violating child labor laws in Nemcheck's case and was sentenced to pay a fine of $4,239.


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