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In NJ, A Convicted Drunk Can Sue The Tavern.

April 30, 2010

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In the case of <i>Voss v. Tranquilino</i>, (App. Div. 2010), the plaintiff, who had a .196 BAC, was injured when his motorcycle collided with a vehicle operated by defendant Tranquilino. Although the plaintiff pleaded guilty to drunk driving, this did not stop him from seeking to finding someone else to blame for his injuries. He blamed Tranquilino and Tiffany's Restaurant which he claimed negligently served him alcohol and thus was a proximate cause of the subsequent accident. Tiffany's and Tranquilino moved to dismiss the complaint relying upon N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b) which provides that a driver of a motor vehicle who is convicted of or pleads guilty to driving while intoxicated (DWI), N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a), in connection with an accident “shall have no cause of action for recovery of economic or noneconomic loss sustained as a result of the accident.” Voss did not oppose Tranquilino's dismissal motion, but he did oppose Tiffany's. Plaintiff argued that the Dram Shop Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-4, which provides a cause of action if the bar/restaurant negligently serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person trumped N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b). In a case of first impression, the Appellate Division agreed, held that N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b) only applies to automobile claims, and denied Tiffany's motion.
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