If Patron Has Been Overserved, Can You Sue The Bar If They Cause An Accident?

As we draw to the end of one year and the start of a new one, plenty of people are celebrating, either at restaurants, bars and clubs or in the homes of friends or family members where they’ve been overserved. Despite concerted efforts to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, there are still plenty of people who drink too much and get behind the wheels of their automobiles. Drunk drivers leave a path of destruction and tragedy in their wake, and frequently they’re not the only ones responsible. Careful investigation often reveals that there are others who have failed to take action to avert disaster, including establishments and hosts who overserve customers despite their obvious intoxication. In the state of New Jersey, these individuals and entities can also be held responsible for the damage that their guest or patron causes.

The law that holds restaurant, club and bar owners responsible when they sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated clients is Section 2A:22A-4 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes. Known as a dram shop law, it permits people who have been harmed by a drunken driver to file a lawsuit against these businesses, holding them responsible for not having acted to prevent an accident. The two conditions under which this law applies are when an establishment serves or sells alcohol to a minor that they had reason to believe was under 21, and when a person to whom they served or sold alcohol was already visibly intoxicated. The state also has a social host liability law that holds the host of a party responsible for damages that a person causes if that person is too intoxicated as a result of alcohol that they served or watched a person consume in their home. The law does not limit liability to when a host provides the alcohol: if the guest brings their own alcohol or serves it to themselves, the host can still be held responsible.

Host and establishment liability in no way interferes with the fact that the person who was intoxicated is responsible for their own action. The liability can simply be extended to those who did not act to prevent the accident from happening, or who facilitated the individual’s drunken state. These people can be pursued for compensation of medical bills, lost wages, rehabilitation, property damage, or any other expenses caused by the person’s negligent actions. They can also be pursued for punitive damages meant to serve as punishment and warning against similar actions in the future. For more information on pursuing this type of litigation, contact Wallace Law today to set up an appointment.