Two S. Philly bars, American Legion sued in connection with ballet student’s hit-and-run death

 Polina Kadiyska came to Philadelphia with dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. She died in a hit-and-run on South Broad Street last year. (Photo courtesy of the Kadiyska family)

Polina Kadiyska came to Philadelphia with dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. She died in a hit-and-run on South Broad Street last year. (Photo courtesy of the Kadiyska family)

The estate of a Rock School ballet student killed in a South Broad Street hit-and-run last year has filed a civil wrongful-death suit against the driver, who already pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle, and two South Philadelphia bars where he was allegedly served alcohol on his 19th birthday.

Just before 4 a.m. on March 18, 2012, 22-year-old Polina Kadiyska was crossing S. Broad Street at Ellsworth after grabbing take-out at a Chinese restaurant.

Before she could reach the center, an Audi driven by Deandre Barnes ran a red light at a high rate of speed and slammed into her in what the suit described as “an extremely violent impact.”

Kadiyska, who briefly saw the car coming according to evidence presented in court, was taken off of life support at Thomas Jefferson Hospital after her family arrived from Bulgaria the following day.

Barnes, who ran away from the scene but was caught by police shortly thereafter, registered a blood-alcohol content of .156.

He was allegedly out with friends celebrating his 18th birthday at at least two South Philadelphia establishments: T-Barr’s Bar at S. Eighth and Jackson streets and Frantic Nightclub, which operates in the American Legion Post 153 at S. 24th St. and Passyunk Ave.

The suit, filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court last Thursday afternoon, names Barnes, T-Barr’s, the American Legion Post and the Indianapolis-based Legion itself as defendants.

It alleges negligence of both the driver and establishments that reportedly served him alcohol despite being underage and “visibly intoxicated,” pain and suffering of both Kadiyska and her survivors and wrongful death. The suit seeks unspecified punitive damages.

Involved parties react

Calls to the American Legion headquarters seeking comment were referred to the Pennsylvania office on Friday, but Adjutant Kit Watson was unavailable to discuss the suit.

Speaking with NewsWorks about the case in May, Tom Barr, who said he has operated T-Barr since 1967, denied that Barnes was served there and said, “I don’t have insurance, so [the Kadiyska estate] wouldn’t get any money.”

After his client pleaded guilty in the criminal case, defense attorney Zachary Shaffer said, “Whatever he can do to help the [Kadiyska] family, he is going to do.”

As he isn’t handling the civil case, Shaffer couldn’t say whether Barnes—who is serving a 5-to-10-year sentence at SCI Camp Hill—would offer details about his drinking earlier that evening.

Robert Sachs, the attorney who filed suit on behalf of the estate, said on Friday that “one reason for filing this lawsuit is to hold fully accountable all of those who served alcohol to an underage driver.”

“Nothing will ever bring this young woman back to her parents, but in our community we cannot tolerate this type of behavior by bars and clubs without holding them fully accountable,” Sachs said.

“The death of Polina Kadiyska was a senseless tragedy,” he continued. “All of us in Philadelphia pay the price for the loss of such a talented dancer. Her future was limitless and we all share in the loss of this very talented ballerina. This is all the more tragic because it was caused by an underage, drunk driver.”

Sachs said that he would have a better idea about when the suit would reach a courtroom after a case-management conference expected to occur before year’s end.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.