Glass of beer

Summer is upon us, along with trips to the New Jersey shore and backyard barbecues often lubricated with alcoholic beverages. Irresponsible bar and restaurant owners will keep the drinks flowing even after patrons have had too much. Those hosting friends and families at their homes may be more concerned about having a good time than having guests safely get home. It’s not smart to serve everyone alcohol under New Jersey law, especially if they are minor or intoxicated.

Under state law, a social host (not one licensed to sell alcohol as part of a business) can be any person who by using an express or implied invitation invites another person into their home and legally provides alcoholic beverages to a social guest. Under certain circumstances, that social host can be held legally responsible for serving too many drinks or allowing too many drinks to be consumed.

If you serve alcohol to a guest who is “visibly intoxicated” and the guest causes injuries to a third party (due to drunk driving, for example), you may be held liable for the injuries or damages caused by the visibly intoxicated guest.

  • If a guest serves himself or herself at a party to the point of intoxication, the social host could also be held responsible.
  • The social host won’t be liable for injuries to the intoxicated guest of legal age.
  • Only injuries to third parties caused by the guest due to the guests being served while visibly intoxicated during the party can be recovered under state law.
  • Under no circumstances should alcohol be served to a minor.

For those in the business of serving alcohol, New Jersey’s “dram shop” act states, in part

  • A person who sustains personal injury or property damage due to the negligent service of alcohol by a licensed alcoholic beverage server may recover damages from that licensed alcoholic beverage server only if,
  • The server is deemed negligent because the server served a visibly intoxicated person or a minor (when the server knew or reasonably should have known, that the person served was a minor),
  • The injury or damage in question was proximately caused by the negligent service of alcoholic beverages, and
  • The injury or damage was a foreseeable consequence of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages.

“Proximate cause” is a legal term. When trying to determine if the alleged negligent action was the “proximate cause” of the injury, the judge or jury would need to decide if the conduct was a cause that set off a foreseeable (predictable or anticipated) sequence of consequences (unbroken by another, superseding cause) which was a substantial factor in causing the injury.

If you were hurt or a loved one was injured or killed in an accident involving a drunk driver in New Jersey, depending on the circumstances, the person or business who served that drunk driver alcohol may be held liable for damages. Schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form so we can discuss what happened and how the law may apply. Statutes of limitations apply, so contact us as soon as possible so you can learn about your legal rights and take action to protect your interests.