As this blog has previously explored, New Jersey’s dram shop law is a way to hold alcohol purveyors, like bars and clubs, responsible for the negligence of their drunk patrons.
What are dram shop laws?
Dram shop laws and social host liability laws give victims (and their families) of drunk driving accidents the ability to hold bars, alcohol retailers, hosts of social functions, etc. legally accountable for the damages caused by drunk customers and social function attendees. This is in addition to the drunk driver themselves. This includes all damages, like injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, death, etc. The negligence cited in dram shop cases is the negligent over serving of the drunk driver and the failure to stop that drunk customer or guest from driving. When a lawsuit is won against the two defendants (i.e., the bar and drunk driver), the damages are divided between them both.
The law and its name stem from 18th Century England when gin was sold by the spoonful, known as a dram. These dram shop laws (i.e., law that covered shops that sold drams of gin) allowed for civil penalties against the dram shop that gave too much gin to their patrons, who then caused mayhem.
Famous New Jersey case
One of the most famous dram shop cases is from our state. In 1999, a young woman was paralyzed by a drunk driver in a car accident. The drunk driver left a New York Giants football game, and the jury found that the Giants’ Stadium concessionaire, along with the drunk driver themselves, were responsible for the woman’s serious injuries. They awarded her and her family $135 million.
The key for our Trenton, New Jersey, readers is that, if one is involved in a car accident with a drunk driver, there may be other responsible parties. This could include the place where that drunk driver got their alcohol.