Archive for August, 2011

Restaurant Held Liable for Drunk Driver’s Injuries

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

How insane is the "War on Drunk Driving" getting?…  

NJ Supreme Court Holds That Drunk Drivers Can Sue Under Dram Shop Act

New Jersey, August 7 — The New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that establishes a person’s right to sue for damages under the state’s Dram Shop law, even if the injured person is also the visibly intoxicated person that should not have been served. The Dram Shop Act, also known as the New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, provides that "a person who sustains personal injury or property damage as a result of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages by a licensed alcoholic beverage server may recover damages."

In Voss v. Tranquilino, the court considered whether a man who was convicted of DWI after his motorcycle collided with another vehicle could sue the Toms River restaurant that had served him. The plaintiff’s blood alcohol level was .196 percent, over twice the legal limit of .08 percent, and he was convicted of driving while intoxicated after pleading guilty.

At trial, the defendant restaurant moved for dismissal, citing another New Jersey law that takes away an individual’s right to sue if he or she is convicted of or pleads guilty to DWI. The trial court disagreed, and the Appellate Division affirmed that the plaintiff had a right to sue under the Dram Shop Act.

The Supreme Court agreed, noting that the act "provides the exclusive civil remedy for injuries resulting from the negligent service of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person by a liquor licensee." The court pointed out that the law denying a cause of action after a DWI conviction is intended to reduce automobile insurance premiums, while the Dram Shop Act had different goals:

     - To make liability coverage for bars and restaurants more reasonable by defining civil liability limits
     - To encourage servers to reduce risks by permitting claims for negligent service

Because of these competing goals, the court declined to "repeal by implication" a part of the Dram Shop Act in direct competition with one of its stated purposes: holding liquor licensees accountable for irresponsibly serving visibly intoxicated patrons… 

So if you go to a restaurant, drink too much, then go out and wrap your car around a tree…you can sue the restaurant for not babysitting you?  Is anyone responsible for their own conduct anymore?

(Thanks to Feintuch, Porwich & Feintuch.)



Money vs Justice…A Matter of Priorities

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I’m not sure if this is a sad commentary on our criminal justice system or on the values of society generally, but…the following is from a Washington Post article which compared the oversight of Las Vegas slot machines with that of electronic voting machines.  I’ve taken the liberty of substituting breathalyzers for voting machines:


     SLOT MACHINES:  State of Nevada has access to all software.  Illegal to use software that is not on file.

     BREATHALYZERS:  Software is kept secret by manufacturers.  Neither the accused citizen nor the  government are permitted access.


     SLOT MACHINES:   State gaming inspectors show up unannounced at casinos to compare computer chips with those on file .  If there is a discrepancy, the             machine is shut down and investigated.

     BREATHALYZERS:  Software is kept secret by manufacturers.  Neither the accused citizen nor the  government are permitted access.


     SLOT MACHINES:  Manufacturers subjected to background checks.

     BREATHALYZERS:  Manufacturers and manufacturing processes are not checked.


     SLOT MACHINES:  By a public agency at arm’s length from manufacturers.  Public questions invited.

     BREATHALYZERS:  Generic models are approved by state government, based upon manufacturer-supplied specifications but without software information.           Individual machines are not certified.  Public questions are irrelevant.


     SLOT MACHINES:  Casino must contact the Gaming Control Board, which has investigators on call around the clock.  They can open up machines to                       inspect internal mechanisms and records of recent gambling outcomes.

     BREATHALYZERS:  No governmental agency exists for independently regulating breathalyzers or handling disputes concerning  accuracy. 

Hmmm…money versus justice.  I guess that tells us a lot about our priorities.

(Thanks to Andre.)