The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on January 22, 2009 that a licensed alcoholic beverage server has no duty under New Jersey’s Dram Shop Act to monitor consumption of alcohol in cases involving self-service of alcoholic beverages. Typically, the Dram Shop Act provides individuals with a civil remedy if they are injured as a result of negligent service by establishments of excessive alcohol. Such alcohol servers are deemed negligent if they serve a visibly intoxicated individual. The Act does not impose a duty to monitor alcohol ingestion. In the case of Mazzacano v. The Estate of Kinnerman Et. Al., defendant, Happy Hour Social and Athletic Club of Maple Shade Inc. was licensed to dispense alcohol at its annual “Pig Roast.” Guests “self-served” themselves from a beer truck. There were no bartenders. Following the pig roast John A. Kinnerman lost control of his car with three passengers, and all four were killed.
This New Jersey Supreme Court ruling holds that “if a licensed server allows the self-service of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who then causes an auto accident proximately related to his intoxicated condition, it can be held accountable under the act.” In this case, Kinnerman was not observed to be visibly intoxicated at the Pig Roast, despite an autopsy that revealed a .181 BAC (blood-alcohol content) level. Based on the lack of visible intoxication, the Trial jury held the Club not liable for the fatal New Jersey drunk driving accident in this case.
If you have been injured in an accident in which alcohol consumption was a contributing factor, you may be able to use New Jersey’s Dram Shop Act to your benefit. Contact a personal injury attorney in New Jersey at the law firm of Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. for a consultation regarding your rights.