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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. PENN VALLEY RESORTS (06/14/85)

filed: June 14, 1985.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
PENN VALLEY RESORTS, INC., APPELLANT



Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of January 19, 1984, in the Court of Common Pleas of Potter County, Criminal Division, at No. 68 of 1983, O.T.N.#B114437-1.

COUNSEL

Jeffrey E. Leber, District Attorney, Coudersport, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Del Sole, Hester and Feeney, JJ.*fn*

Author: Hester

[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 391]

On October 20, 1983, a jury convicted appellant, Penn Valley Resorts, Inc., of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and two counts of furnishing liquor or malt beverages to minors and visibly intoxicated persons. Post trial motions for a new trial and in arrest of judgment were denied, and appellant was fined $10,000.00 on the involuntary manslaughter conviction and $1.00 on each count of furnishing liquor or malt beverages to minors and visibly intoxicated persons. The charge of reckless endangerment was held to merge with involuntary manslaughter for purposes of sentencing. Appellant perfected this appeal from the judgment of sentence of January 19, 1984. The facts were as follows:

On May 8, 1981, 60 undergraduate students from the State University of New York at Alfred, New York (hereinafter "Alfred Tech"), a two-year agricultural and technical

[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 392]

    college, drove to Genesee, Potter County, Pennsylvania for a dinner dance at appellant's resort facility. A student representative made arrangements with appellant's president, Edwin Clancy, whereby appellant agreed to provide appropriate facilities, serve dinner and furnish an open bar. The students arranged for the music for dancing.

The deceased, William Edward Frazer, Jr., a 20-year-old Alfred Tech student, attended the dinner dance. He consumed sufficient alcohol during the affair to cause him to stagger, slur his speech, quickly alternate his moods and ultimately cause a fatal automobile accident.

At the end of the evening, several of Frazer's friends, notably Phillip Knapp, tried extensively to prevent Frazer from driving his vehicle on the 45-minute return trip to Alfred Tech. Eventually, Knapp was alone with Frazer in the parking lot of appellant's resort. Knapp held Frazer's car keys and waited for the arrival of state police who were summoned by two of appellant's patrons who lived nearby. At one point, Knapp had to wrestle and strike Frazer to resist his attempts to grab the car keys.

Before the police arrived, Frazer went to his car and told Knapp that he was looking for a gun to force Knapp to release the keys. Fearing for his safety, Knapp reluctantly released the keys, and Frazer drove away. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Gavitt and her daughter, the aforementioned neighbors/patrons, returned and offered to drive Knapp back to the campus. En route some six and one-half miles from appellant's facility, Knapp and the Gavitts came across Frazer's overturned vehicle on Route 19 just across the state border into New York. Frazer's body was trapped inside.

It was ascertained that Frazer had operated his vehicle into the opposite, southbound lane and struck a bridge abutment, causing said vehicle to flip and become airborne for 75 feet. It landed on its roof, slid 400 feet and came to rest in mid-highway. Frazer was dead at the scene, having suffered massive head injuries. A blood alcohol analysis

[ 343 Pa. Super. Page 393]

    disclosed blood alcohol content of .23. After investigation, appellant was charged with the four offenses.

Appellant's first argument is that a corporation is not a "person" who can be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter or reckless endangerment. Additionally, appellant argues that without proof that Edwin Clancy's actions were "condoned, sanctioned or recklessly disregarded by the Board of Directors," it cannot be held criminally responsible for such actions.

Under ยง 307(a)(3) of the Crimes Code, appellant may be convicted of a crime committed by Edwin Clancy in his position as "a high managerial agent." Section 307(a)(3) sets forth that:

A corporation may be convicted of the commission of an offense if . . . the commission of the offense was authorized, requested, commanded, performed or recklessly tolerated by the board of directors or by a high managerial agent acting in behalf ...


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