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NJ Supreme Court DUI Ruling: Drivers Can Sue Bars for Serving Alcohol

June 13, 2011 | Posted In Recent News - Criminal Law

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that drivers in New Jersey who have been involved in DUI accidents can sue the drinking establishment where they were served alcohol.  In a split 5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court held that a man who sued the bar where he had drunk alcohol prior to being involved in an accident could file a lawsuit against the bar.

In 2006, the man, 47-year-old Frederick Voss, had consumed alcohol at Tiffany's Restaurant in Toms River.  Soon after, Voss got on his motorcycle and drove off.  He ran a red light and struck a car.  The impact threw him more than 100 feet into the air, and he suffered serious long-term injuries.  Tests after the accident showed that his blood alcohol content was .196%, almost twice the legally allowed limit of .08%.

He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence but filed a lawsuit against Tiffany's Restaurant for serving alcohol for several hours before the accident.  Tiffany's appealed, claiming that the lawsuit was barred under a 1997 amendment to New Jersey's auto insurance laws that prevents drunk drivers from suing in DUI accidents. 

However, under New Jersey’s dram shop laws, persons involved in accidents can sue the establishment that served the drunk driver alcohol.  These dram shop laws were passed to enable victims of drunk driving accidents to recover damages not only from the drunk driver, but also from the establishment that overserved the driver prior to the accident. 

The Supreme Court has held these two laws are not incompatible with each other.  It stated both of them work to reduce the incidence of drunk driving by apportioning the blame for DUI on both the drunk driver, as well as the establishment serving the alcohol through the principle of comparative negligence.

The New Jersey DUI lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons charged with DUI offenses across New Jersey.

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