Friday, April 30, 2010

New Jersey Holds Drunk Drivers Can Recover From Bars That Over-Served Them

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Last week, the New Jersey Law Journal reported on a New Jersey appeals court's ruling in Voss v. Tranquilino, A-5431. In Voss, the court addressed the issue of whether a person convicted of drunk driving can then turn around and sue the bar that over-served them for economic and non-economic damages. The defendant in Voss, the bar at which he had been drinking, asserted that it was immune from liability pursuant to the operation of the 1997 anti-drunken driving amendments to motor vehicle insurance law, at N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b), which specifically state that a driver convicted of DWI in connection with an accident "shall have no cause of action for his or her injuries." The court disagreed, basing its decision on the the legislative intent behind the law:
(The) legislature could not have thought it could reduce the number of drunken drivers by immunizing liquor establishments from their claims and thus providing a disincentive to the licensees...
The court's decision makes sense. Although some might argue that it encourages people to drink and drive, bar owners should not be exempted from dram shop laws when the natural extension of their negligent action occurs: the drunk person operates a motor vehicle and is involved in an accident. Had the person not been intoxicated he or she might not have made the unfortunate decision to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Where the bar's failure to stop serving alcohol to the injured party may have been at least one cause of the accident, the bar should not be absolved from liability by operation of law. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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