John Debella Files Suit Against Bar In Wife's Death It Says The Bryn Mawr Business Should Not Have Kept Serving Her. She Was Later Found Dead In Her Car.

Posted: July 02, 1993

John DeBella, the WMMR-FM (93.3) disc jockey, is suing a Bryn Mawr bar, charging that its workers should not have kept serving drinks to his estranged wife the night she died.

Annette DeBella, who was 34, drove home from the Central Bar & Grille, 39 Morris Ave., just after midnight Oct. 17, then pulled into the garage of her Main Line home and closed the garage door.

Later that morning, she was found dead in the still-running car.

Montgomery County coroner Halbert Fillinger ruled her death a suicide, from carbon monoxide poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was 0.21 percent. The legal intoxication level in Pennsylvania is 0.10 percent.

The lawsuit filed yesterday in Montgomery County Court alleges that the Central Bar acted negligently by serving drinks to Annette DeBella late that night. According to the suit, she was visibly intoxicated at the time, and the staff knew she had drunk to excess before.

Michael Grims, an owner of the Central Bar, yesterday declined comment on the lawsuit, which asks for a payment of more than $30,000.

Just after her death, bar staff said that she had been drinking that night, but not to excess.

The staff of the Central remembered Annette DeBella as a well-known regular who liked Wild Turkey Manhattans. One bartender recalled she sometimes would invite workers to her nearby home on Woodleave Road after closing.

Though there has been debate about whether her death was an accident or suicide, Alan L. Spielman, the Philadelphia lawyer who filed the suit, said yesterday that alcohol was a contributing factor either way.

"People do things under the influence of alcoholic beverages, while they're intoxicated, that they wouldn't do otherwise," he said.

Annette DeBella's parents are named in the lawsuit, along with John DeBella, executor of her estate, as people entitled to recover damages.

Douglas Gammon, Annette DeBella's father, said in a phone interview from his home in Greensboro, N.C., that he knew the lawsuit was being filed and he thought it was proper.

"I don't think the bar should have been serving her all those drinks," Gammon said.

The DeBellas were a high-profile couple for most of their six years of marriage. They had separated in February 1992 and were planning to divorce.

John DeBella had said little about the divorce. He did not grant an interview about her death until last December, when he said that he still had not accepted her death.

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