In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bars and restaurants can be held liable when a bartender or waiter serves alcohol to someone who is already visibly intoxicated. For instance, let’s say a bartender serves shot after shot to a customer who then gets into a car and causes an accident. The person who is injured in the accident and the drunk driver may be able to make a claim against the bar for serving too much alcohol in the first place. The law requires, however, that the person was served when he or she was visibly intoxicated.
In any accident case, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff – the person bringing the lawsuit. In general, proving that a bar or restaurant served a patron who was visibly intoxicated means finding an eyewitness, such as an employee or other patron, who can testify that the person looked visibly intoxicated (i.e., swaying, loud, slurring, odor of alcohol, etc.).
However, finding such eyewitnesses is not always easy. The reality is that people present in the bar at the time were also drinking, so memories are often foggy. Finding a credible eyewitness can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
A recent New Jersey case makes the burden of proof a bit easier. In Halvorsen v. Villamil, the NJ Superior Court held that the dram shop act does not require direct evidence of visible intoxication via an eyewitness. Read more about this new alcohol liability case. A forensic expert may be able to demonstrate that the bar/restaurant must have served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated.
It is important to note though that the facts of the Halvorsen case were such that the expert was able to make this determination. The drunk driver had left the bar a mere 20 minutes before the accident occurred and his blood alcohol was nearly .03, tested an hour after the accident happened. These two facts made a large impact on the case and created the perfect storm for the court’s analysis and holding.
- New Jersey Bar & Restaurant Liability for Negligently Serving Alcohol
- NJ Bar and Restaurant Liability for Alcohol Related Accidents and Fights
New Jersey & Pennsylvania Bar/Restaurant Alcohol Liability Lawyers
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