By Mary Pat Gallagher | New Jersey Law Journal

July 19, 2010

The state Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether drunken drivers injured in accidents they cause can sue the liquor establishments that served them.

State insurance law bars them from bringing personal injury claims against other drivers, but the Court has never ruled on whether that statute takes precedence over the dram shop act, which makes liquor establishments liable for serving visibly intoxicated patrons.


In April, the Appellate Division held that it does not, finding no intent by the Legislature to immunize tavern owners — and strong public policy reasons against such a result.

Now, the Court has agreed to hear the case, Voss v. Tranquilino, A-110-09, which was among the latest batch of certification grants announced on July 16.

Frederick Voss was injured on Nov. 9, 2006, when his motorcycle collided in Toms River with a vehicle operated by Kristoffe Tranquilino. Voss allegedly suffered a separated shoulder, a broken wrist and a closed head injury.

Voss, who had a blood-alcohol level of .196, more than double the .08 legal limit, pleaded guilty to DWI. He then sued Tiffany’s Restaurant, alleging the Toms River tavern substantially contributed to the accident because it served him alcoholic drinks beforehand even though he was obviously intoxicated. 


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