One Passenger Owes no Duty to Another in DWI Crash – Champion v. Dunfee
In today’s ruling from the Appellate Division in Champion v. Dunfee, the Court held that a mere passenger in a motor vehicle who knows that the driver may be intoxicated has no duty to warn other passengers in the vehicle of the potential danger. An exception to this rule may exist when there is a special relationship between the intoxicated driver and the passenger with knowledge of the intoxication, such as employer/employee or guardian/ward.
In the Champion case, the plaintiff was severely injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driver by an intoxicated person. The defendant passenger knew or should have known about the intoxicated condition of the driver (her boyfriend). However, she took no steps to either warn the other passenger or protect him from the danger. The Appellate Division ruled that New Jersey law does not impose an obligation upon mere passengers to warn other passengers about potential danger from the intoxicated driver of their car.
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