Dram Shop Laws On New Years Eve

Bar CocktailsHow NJ Bars & Restaurants can Protect Themselves from Lawsuits

New Years Eve is fast approaching and just about everyone is planning to have a good time.  Most people will take this opportunity to go out with friends or family, raise their glass at the midnight hour and toast to the new year.  While it is always a good feeling to share this evening with loved ones, it is important to realize that not everyone will do so in a responsible way.

Drunk driving by both adults and teens continues to be a problem during the holiday season.  Sadly, this is amplified on nights like this where simple celebrations have the potential to turn into a tragedy.  In response to these occurrences the State of New Jersey has enacted the New Jersey Dram Shop Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-1 to -7), a set of dram shop laws designed to prevent service of alcohol to minors and intoxicated persons and minimize fatalities that can be caused by drunk driving accidents.

Liability of Bars and Restaurants for Over-serving Drunk Patrons

Dram shop laws in New Jersey have extended the liability of bars and restaurants to the injuries sustained by the intoxicated person who is served while visibly intoxicated.  Under NJ law N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-3, “visibly intoxicated” is defined as “a state of intoxication accompanied by a perceptible act or series of acts which present clear signs of intoxication”.  However, recent case law has established that eyewitness testimony of visible intoxication is not always required when there exists sufficient direct or circumstantial evidence that would allow a jury to reasonably determine that the alleged intoxicated patron was served while visibly intoxicated.  The Supreme Court of New Jersey has even permitted dram shop claims as a result of injuries sustained by the visibly intoxicated individual who was over-served and got into a motorcycle accident as a result.

If you are a bar or restaurant owner or bartender, it is important to keep a watchful eye on your patrons, as this will protect you from any unintended legal consequences.  As with the New Jersey social host laws, those of us who host any event or provide alcohol to others are in some way responsible for our guests, so it’s helpful to take what precautions you can.  As a party attendee, designating sober drivers and having phone numbers to local cab companies handy are just some steps you can take to keep everyone safe this New Years Eve.

In any case involving an intoxicated driver and claims of personal injury or wrongful death, a New Jersey personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights under the latest laws.  Call (732) 965-3350 today if you think you may have a claim for injuries suffered under the New Jersey Dram Shop Act.

We at Villani & DeLuca want everyone to enjoy their New Years celebration.  Be careful, have fun, protect yourself and enjoy!

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