New Jersey Ruling Gives Drunk Drivers Legal Recourse against Over-serving Bars

Drunk driving takes a heavy toll on our nation's roadways. In 2009, over 10,000 people were killed in accidents involving a driver over the legal limit for blood alcohol content. However, new and more stringent laws are increasingly cracking down on intoxicated driving. In New Jersey, a significant new court ruling will allow intoxicated drivers to hold taverns and other alcohol-serving establishments responsible for their contributions to drunk driving accidents.

Bar Accountability

In New Jersey, the Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Servers Fair Liability Act was enacted to establish some predictability in claims against taverns and other alcohol-serving establishments. In order to hold a licensed alcohol server liable for injury or property damage, the moving party must show negligence in serving an already intoxicated patron and that the harmful outcome of that negligence was reasonably foreseeable.

A recent ruling in New Jersey's highest court established a precedent that will even allow intoxicated drivers themselves to sue bar owners. In early June, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down a final ruling affirming the decision of a lower court that held a motorcyclist who was severely injured in an accident could sue the restaurant that had over-served him.

After drinking for several hours at an establishment known as Tiffany's Restaurant, Frederick Voss ran a red light on his motorcycle and impacted another vehicle. At the time of the accident, Voss was nearly two and a half times over the legal blood alcohol concentration limit. The court said that the principle of comparative negligence could distribute responsibility equitably between intoxicated drivers and over-serving restaurants or bars.

What the Ruling Means

The New Jersey Supreme Court decision regarding Frederick Voss makes it clear that both drunk drivers and the establishments that contribute to their dangerous behavior can be held responsible for resulting injuries.

If you or one of your loved ones has been injured in an accident involving an intoxicated driver, contact an attorney today to explore your legal options.