DWI Ticket no “BAR” to Suing Saloon – Voss v. Tranquilino

[04/28/10 – 10:24 pm] In this morning’s Appellate division decision in Voss v. Tranquilino, the Appellate Division ruled that a drunk driving conviction under NJSA 39:4-50(a) does not pose a bar to the intoxicated driver from filing a dram shop suit against the tavern that served him the intoxicating liquor. According to the Court:
“N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b) 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.” The issue in this appeal is whether this statutory provision bars a dram shop claim by an intoxicated motorist against a liquor licensee that allegedly served him alcoholic beverages when he was visibly intoxicated prior to the motor vehicle accident. Although a literal reading of the statute suggests that all claims are barred, we reach a contrary conclusion. We hold that N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(b) does not bar a dram shop claim because (1) the purpose of the statute is to reduce automobile insurance premiums and its scope should be limited accordingly to losses that are subject to coverage under Title 39; (2) an interpretation barring dram shop claims would unjustifiably constitute repeal by implication of a portion of the New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-1 to -7, commonly referred to as the “Dram Shop Act”; and (3) immunizing liquor licensees from liability in such circumstances would be inimical to the policy of this State of curbing drunk driving.”

Download a copy of Voss v. Tranquilino.

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