Attorney Drops Suit Against Coors In Man's Death

Scales of Justice
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A Reno lawyer has dropped a lawsuit against Coors Brewing Co. filed for the mother of a teenager who died in a car wreck while he was driving drunk.

Attorney Ken McKenna, who represents Jodie Pisco of Reno, said he filed the suit to challenge at the Supreme Court level a Nevada law that protects alcohol providers from being sued.

But when a lawyer for Coors threatened him and Pisco with sanctions, McKenna said they decided to back off.

"After doing some research, we decided that the Supreme Court is unlikely to be inclined politically to overturn the protection for alcohol distributors," McKenna told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

He said Pisco, who declined to comment, only wanted to draw attention to the problem of underage drinking and to her contention that alcohol companies advertise their products to minors.

Laura Sankey, a Coors spokeswoman, said the company was pleased that McKenna decided to withdraw the lawsuit.

"While we all deeply sympathize with the family of Ryan Pisco, we also knew that a case holding others responsible for his death was entirely without merit," she said.

Ryan Pisco was 19 when he left a party near the University of Nevada, Reno in March 2002 and drove his girlfriend's car into a stop light pole at 90 mph.

Rescue workers found a Coors beer carton in his car.

The suit filed April 14 in Washoe District Court claimed Colorado-based Coors was liable for Ryan Pisco's death because it promotes underage drinking and encourages illegal alcohol consumption at sporting events - a claim the company denies.

In a May 10 letter, Eugene Wait, a Reno lawyer representing Coors, urged McKenna to drop the suit.

"It is simply wrong to exploit the Pisco family's grief by bringing baseless lawsuits against parties who are neither legally nor morally responsible for Ryan's death," Wait said in the letter.

"Nevada law is clear that the legal cause of alcohol-related injuries, even when the injury is to the drinker himself, is the decision to drink," he added.

McKenna said the law should be changed but said he did not want to expose the Pisco family to sanctions and legal fees by pushing it further.