Dram Shop law exists to protect innocent victims from over-serving of patrons; at private parties, or at bars, restaurants or other licensed premises. Sometimes, however, vendors may be immune for Dram Shop liability; should they be able to prove they did their utmost to prevent the “reasonable foreseeability” of an alcohol-related accident or injury. So, when are bars not liable for damages due to unlawful alcohol sales?

Dram Shop Liability and Negligence

Dram shop liability is part of state law under New Jersey Statute 2A:22A also called the New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act. This statute states that an individual who sustained injuries because of the actions of an intoxicated individual has the right to seek damages from the vendor who sold the substance if the vendor:

  • continued to serve alcoholic beverages to a “visibly intoxicated” person. Statute 2A:22A-3 defines the term as “a state of intoxication accompanied by a perceptible act or acts which present clear signs of intoxication”.
  • sold or served alcohol to a minor (under the age of 21); and had reason to believe they were a minor.
  • sold alcohol to an individual after closing time.
  •  served a person who likely would become intoxicated due to the amount of served alcohol.

It should be noted, however, that New Jersey law states explicitly that a server shall be held responsible “only when the server served a visibly intoxicated person, or served a minor, under circumstances where the server knew, or reasonably should have known, that the person served was a minor,” meaning any evidence of non-negligence procedure or practices may damage a Dram Shop liability claim.

Evidence of Vendor Non-Negligence

Under New Jersey Dram Shop law, certain evidence may be presented; which can outline why a licensed premise was not negligent for over-serving a person alcohol. The following policies are examples of practices which demonstrate evidence of non-negligence by a bar, tavern, or other licensed premises:

  • Encouraging customers to take a taxi home if they consume too much alcohol
  • Promoting non-alcoholic drinks
  • Encouraging clientele not to become intoxicated
  • Sending the servers of the premises to approve server educational courses

If a bar or tavern owner can show that they have taken appropriate steps to try and minimize the risk of accidents, fights or injuries, they may successfully argue that they did everything in their power to prevent the “reasonable foreseeability” of an alcohol-related incident.

If You Think You May Be Liable for an Accident, Call DeZao Law Today

When a drunk driver injures someone in an accident, they may be able to claim compensation. Not only from the driver but also from whoever provided them more alcohol than they should have. If you fear you may be subject to a lawsuit because someone sustained injuries at the hands of a patron at your establishment,  seek expert legal guidance right away. Speak with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney today at the Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A. Our firm provides dram shop law services and are here to assist you with your case. Call us at (973) 358-6134 for a free consultation.