Drunk Drivers Can Sue Bars That Served Them

A New Jersey man decided to ride his motorcycle home from a Toms River restaurant. He was struck by a car on the way. Turns out that the gentleman had a few drinks before he left. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit and he pled guilty to drunken driving. After that, he did what any red-blooded American would do: He sued the restaurant that served him alcohol.

The patron sued under the “dram shop” law, which allows bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to be held liable when they serve someone after that person becomes noticeably inebriated, if the person and then drives drunk and injures someone. Typically, such a law is employed by victims of drunk drivers who seek damages. But here, the drunk driver himself tried to use the law to recover for his injuries.

The issue at hand was whether another law, which appears to bar any court action by a drunk driver for injuries sustained from the accident in which he was driving drunk, barred his lawsuit. Recently, a New Jersey Court found that while a drunk driver could not sue the people that he was in an accident with, he could sue the place that served him liquor. The Court reasoned that allowing a drunk driver to sue the establishment that served him, after he was visibly intoxicated, helps to deter irresponsible alcohol consumption, and, therefore, drunk driving.

Bartenders beware.

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