Dram shop acts are laws that impose liability on bars and other commercial locations where alcoholic beverages are sold. In New Jersey the applicable statues are N.J. Rev. Stat. §2A:22A-1 and N.J. Rev. Stat. §2A:22A-4. They are designed to hold such establishments responsible for serving visibly intoxicated individuals for injuries that occur. Recovery is permitted when the defendant (typically the bar or bartender) knew or should have known that a customer was intoxicated. In some states, this standard is raised to “obvious intoxication that the individual presents a clear danger to himself and others”.
The motivation behind such laws is to prevent intoxicated individuals from harming others after a night of drinking out. By holding bars and other establishments liable, it encourages more active oversight of customers who bartenders are serving. Because of such laws, bartenders know that they should cut off a patron who has consumed too much alcohol to protect themselves from liability for any accidents that may occur due to that individual’s intoxication.
In this recent case, that two cousins suffered severe and permanent injuries after a drunk driver struck their vehicle from behind on Route 9 in Old Bridge, New Jersey. The Middlesex County suit yielded a $2.05 million settlement offer. One victim sustained a traumatic injury to her brain and ultimately lost vision in one of her eyes. The drunk driver had a BAC three times the legal driving limit and is currently in jail. Both plaintiffs are just 20 years old.
Before the crash, the drunk driver had been at Ale House Tavern & Tap in Sayreville where he had allegedly been drinking for several hours. His own auto insurance carrier agreed to pay the full $50,000 policy limit, but obviously this was well short of the damages that the passengers of the other vehicle sustained. Fortunately, the pub had $2 million in insurance coverage which was accessible to the plaintiffs via dram shop act liability. The driver should have been cut off from alcohol well before he was reached this level of intoxication which was three times the legal driving limit. The case was set for trial later this year.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of a drunk driver call the law offices of Druckman & Hernandez for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer.