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Halvorsen V. Villamil Expands Dram Shop Liability To NJ Accident Victims

Halvorsen V. Villamil Expands Dram Shop Liability To NJ Accident Victims

At Geoffrey B. Gompers & Associates we focus on representing motor vehicle accident victims.  Often, our clients are injured in motor vehicle collisions caused by drunk drivers, and by extension, the bars that get them drunk.  Recently, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an important decision expanding the liability of purveyors of alcohol under New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-1 to -7, commonly referred to as the New Jersey “Dram Shop Act” which will help victims of drunk driving crashes to recover damages.  That case, Halvorsen v. Villamil, 429 N.J. Super. 568 (2013), involved a motor vehicle accident that occurred on February 10, 2008 after defendant, Gregory Villamil consumed alcohol at a T.G.I.F. Friday’s and negligently rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle causing severe injuries to both parties.  The New Jersey Court examined whether a cause of action under the New Jersey Dram Shop Act requires eyewitness testimony to prove a person was served an alcoholic beverage while visibly intoxicated.  Defendant’s blood alcohol level in that case was later determined to be 0.278.  Plaintiff sued T.G.I.F. Friday’s under the Dram Shop Act even though there was no eyewitness testimony to support the contention that defendant was served alcohol while he was visibly intoxicated at T.G.I.F. Friday’s.

The Appellate Division in Halvorsen concluded that the accident victim presented sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact as to whether defendant was served alcohol while visibly intoxicated despite the fact that plaintiff did not offer eyewitness testimony.  The Halvorsen Court reasoned that the Dram Shop Act does not contain language mandating that a plaintiff produce an eyewitness to prove that a person was served alcohol by a licensed server while visibly intoxicated.  Additionally, the Appellate Division relied on defendant’s own testimony that he only consumed alcohol at T.G.I.F. Friday’s and that defendant testified at the accident scene that he felt no pain despite suffering severe injuries.

The court concluded that the following evidence constituted sufficient evidence of negligent service of alcohol:

  • The toxicologist’s opinion that the driver would have been showing signs of visible intoxication one hour before he left the bar;
  • The driver’s testimony that he consumed all of the alcohol that night was at the bar in question;
  • The short period of time between the time the driver left  T.G.I.F. Friday’s and the motor vehicle accident;
  • The police officer’s testimony about the odor of alcohol noticed on the driver’s breath;
  • The driver’s remark to the responding police officer that he was not in any pain despite sustaining serious head injuries in the crash; and
  • The driver’s high blood alcohol level one hour after the accident.

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with a drunk driver, know your rights!  Even if the drunk driver doesn’t have insurance, there may be a claim against the bar that got him drunk!

The car accident lawyers at Geoffrey B. Gompers & Associates have offices in both Philadelphia and New Jersey.  It makes sense to call us for a free consult. Call our law offices at 215-567-6600 for a free consultation or contact us online.