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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: April 1, 2011
A bar with a long counter and a few stools - Leckerman Law, LLC

In an apparent effort to curb drunk driving, the New Jersey Appeals Court has ruled that a person convicted of a DWI can sue the bar that served him alcohol.

This ruling is based on the New Jersey Dram Shop Act. Historically, the Dram Shop Act allows a person injured in an accident to sue the establishment that served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who caused the accident. The question for the Court was whether the Dram Shop Act allows a drunk driver who caused an accident to sue the bar for injuries the drunk driver suffered in the accident.

In Voss v. Tranquilino, the plaintiff, Voss, was riding a motorcycle when he collided with a car. As a result of the accident, Voss was allegedly injured. Prior to operating the motorcycle, Voss had been drinking alcohol at a local bar/restaurant. After being breath tested by the police, it was revealed that Voss had a .19% breath alcohol concentration (BrAC). This was nearly two and a half times the .08% legal limit. Subsequently, Voss pleaded guilty to DWI.

In his law suit, Voss asserted the bar negligently continued to serve him alcohol despite being obviously intoxicated. Moreover, Voss claimed that the reason for the accident and his injuries was his state of intoxication caused by the bar.

Agreeing with Voss’s position, the Court stated that the Dram Shop Act was passed by the Legislature as incentive to liquor establishments to avoid serving intoxicated patrons. Citing a previous case, the Court wrote that this law was meant to stem the ‘senseless havoc and destruction caused by intoxicated drivers.’ Whether this new case will aid in that battle remains to be seen.

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