The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog

Family Sues Ryan Dunn's Estate and Barnaby's After Fatal Crash

Everyone at least knows about the TV show "Jackass." What you may not know are the names of the guys that, along with Johnny Knoxville, made money doing stunts and pranking one another. Last year, one of the "Jackass" crew, Ryan Dunn, was killed in a car accident that was likely caused by alcohol and excessive speed.

In the car with Dunn was Zachary Hartwell, who had been out with Dunn that night. Both Hartwell and Dunn were killed in crash and ensuing fire. Now Hartwell's parents are suing Dunn's estate and Barnaby's for the wrongful death of their son, according to The Pennsylvania Record.

How can a bar be liable for a death caused by a traffic accident?

A wrongful death claim only requires that there be the death of a person that is caused by a wrongful act. That wrongful act can be anything from negligence to murder.

In Pennsylvania, there is a "dram shop" law that holds an establishment that serves alcohol liable for harm caused after serving a visibly intoxicated person. To prove that someone was visibly intoxicated requires eyewitness accounts and any blood alcohol content tests taken on the driver.

Once it is proven that the visibly intoxicated person was served by the establishment, then it must be proved that the service of alcohol is what caused the claimed injury.

Here, it might be difficult for Hartwell's parents to prove that it was solely the alcohol that caused Hartwell's death. Barnaby's is likely to make the argument that Dunn was a known daredevil and that he was likely to speed with or without alcohol in his system. However, there will likely be plenty of expert evidence showing the decline in decision-making abilities after drinking alcohol.

In any case, a wrongful death claim is not a fun thing to litigate as money will not bring Zachary Hartwell back to life. Perhaps some good will come out of this lawsuit if Barnaby's re-trains its staff to be more careful to not serve to visibly intoxicated patrons.

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