A person injured due to the negligence or intentional acts of an intoxicated individual is not limited to seeking damages from that intoxicated individual. In situations where the intoxicated individual was served alcohol while visibly intoxicated or was served alcohol while a minor, an injured person has recourse against the establishment that served the visibly intoxicated individual or minor.
The Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-1 et seq., sets forth the elements that a plaintiff must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence to obtain a judgment against an establishment that served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual or minor. If a jury finds that a licensed alcoholic beverage server served, or permitted to be served, alcoholic beverages to a person when that person was visibly intoxicated or known or reasonably should have been known to be a minor, then the licensed alcoholic beverage server was negligent.
“Visibly intoxicated” has been defined to mean a state of intoxication accompanied by a perceptible act or series of acts which present clear signs of intoxication. This means that an establishment that serves alcohol to an individual who is displaying the classic signs of intoxication, e.g., bloodshot eyes, loss of balance, slurred speech, aggressive behavior, can be held liable for the negligent or intentional acts of the individual due to continued service of alcohol after intoxication.
Once a plaintiff demonstrates that an establishment did in fact serve alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated individual, the plaintiff must then demonstrate that the establishment’s conduct was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Proximate cause means a cause that naturally and probably led to the event that caused injury. It does not make a difference if other causes intervened or contributed to the injury-causing event, so long as the service of alcoholic beverages was a substantial factor in causing the event.
In addition to the foregoing, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the injury-causing event was a foreseeable consequence of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages. A consequence is considered foreseeable when it is a natural and probable consequence of the service of alcoholic beverages to a visibly intoxicated person or minor.
The purpose of the Act is to impose financial responsibility for injuries proximately caused by the negligent service of alcoholic beverages on alcohol serving establishments. This does not mean that such establishments are solely liable in situations where a visibly intoxicated individual or minor causes an injury. Rather, a jury is required to allocate negligence between the establishment and any other party, including the plaintiff. For example, a plaintiff injured due to his own drunk driving would have a cause of action against the establishment that served him while he was visibly intoxicated; however, the plaintiff would bear some percentage of comparative liability for becoming voluntarily intoxicated.
Once intoxicated, the intoxicated individual is presumed to lack the capacity to adequately evaluate his/her ability to drive. Thus, the establishment is ordinarily responsible for the driver’s decision to drive in an intoxicated state, while the driver is responsible for his/her own conduct in drinking to the point of intoxication.
Clients of Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd L.L.P., who have been injured in an car accident due to the negligent service of alcohol, can rest assured that this firm will seek damages on their behalf not only from intoxicated drivers, but from any and all of the establishments that negligently served alcohol, pursuant to the terms of the Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act.