New Jersey bars and restaurants may be liable in situations where a server or bartender negligently serves alcohol to a customer and that customer causes injury to another person. Injury could result from a bar fight, car accident or any other type of accident or mishap. In addition, bar customers who injure themselves may be able to turn around and bring legal claims against the bars/restaurants which negligently served them alcohol.
The leading case is Voss v. Tranquilino, a 2010 case in which the New Jersey Superior Court allowed a bar/restaurant customer who was convicted of a DWI to make a claim against the bar for negligent service of alcohol. In other words, a customer who was injured in a DWI which he caused was allowed to sue the bar for serving him alcohol. The decision was later upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
At first glance, it may seem unfair that in New Jersey, someone who was responsible for causing a DWI or DUI is allowed to go after a bar/restaurant for serving alcohol. However, it makes sense, considering New Jersey’s Dram Shop Act. Under this law, bars and restaurants are not allowed to serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated. This law is relatively straightforward in how it applies. If a bar or restaurant in New Jersey continues to serve alcohol to someone who is already visibly intoxicated and that person later injures themselves or others, the bar/restaurant may be liable.
In order to make out a viable claim against a bar or restaurant under New Jersey’s Dram Shop Act, an injured individual must prove the following 3 elements:
- the bartender or server was negligent in serving a visibly intoxicated person or serving a minor under circumstances where the server knew, or reasonably should have known, that the person was a minor,
- the injury was proximately caused by the negligent service of alcohol, and
- the injury was a foreseeable consequence of the negligent service of alcohol.
Successful dram shop cases will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. In order to prove that a bartender or server negligently served a customer, there must be evidence that the customer was visibly intoxicated when he or she was being served alcohol. This can usually be proven with testimony of other customers who were present at the time.
In cases where a minor was served alcohol, factors such as whether the minor used a false or fake id or whether the minor was even carded will be important to help establish whether the bartender or server should have known that the person was a minor.
Early and proper investigation in these cases is very important to determine whether there is a viable case. In the restaurant service industry, employee retention rates tend to be low. This means that key witnesses may be difficult to locate as time goes on.
To submit your case for review by our Pennsylvania and New Jersey bar/restaurant alcohol liability and accident lawyers, call 800.220.7600. Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation, and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
Last updated: November 13, 2014