The New Jersey Dram Shop Act

To advance a claim against a bar, restaurant or other licensed alcoholic beverage supplier in New Jersey, you must meet the elements of the New Jersey Dram Shop Act. The Law in New Jersey for suing a licensed seller of alcohol is set forth in New Jersey’s Dram Act. The New Jersey Supreme Court “reasoned that the [New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability] Act . . . provided the exclusive definition of an alcoholic beverage server’s negligence.” Fisch v. Bellshot, 135 N.J. 374, 382 (1994), The New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act (“Act”) defines a plaintiff’s prima facie case for all dram-shop causes of action. Id. “Section four of the Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-4, unequivocally states that the Act provides the exclusive remedy for dram-shop causes of action arising after the effective date of the Act.” Id. The New Jersey Dram Shop Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-4)

The Dram Shop Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-4, provides as follows:
a. [a] person who sustains personal injury or property damage as a result of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages by a licensed alcoholic beverage server may recover damages from a licensed alcoholic beverage server only if: (1) The server is deemed negligent pursuant to subsection b. of this section; and (2) The injury or damage was proximately caused by the negligent service of alcoholic beverages; and (3) The injury or damage was a foreseeable consequence of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages.

b. A licensed alcoholic beverage server shall be deemed to have been negligent only when the server served a visibly intoxicated person, or served a minor, under circumstances where the server knew, or reasonably should have known, that the person served was a minor.

“Visibly intoxicated’ means a state of intoxication accompanied by a perceptible act or series of acts which present clear signs of intoxication.” N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-3. The Supreme Court has clearly stated that “evidentially competent lay observations of the fact of intoxication are always admissible.” State v. Bealor, 187 N.J. 574 (2006).

In Pennsylvania the applicable statute that allows for a claim to be advanced against a licensed alcohol server is Dram Shop Act, 47 Pa.C.S. § 4-497. The statute provides: No licensee shall be liable to third persons on account of damages inflicted upon them off of the licensed premises by customers of the licensee unless the customer who inflicts the damages was sold, furnished or given liquor or malt or brewed beverages by the said licensee or his agent, servant or employee when the said customer was visibly intoxicated. 47 Pa.C.S. 4-497. In order to prevail in a Dram Shop liability action, an injured plaintiff must demonstrate: 1.) an individual was served alcohol while “visibly intoxicated” and; 2.) the intoxication was the proximate cause of his injuries. Fandozzi v. Kelly Hotel, Inc., 711 A.2d 524, 525-526 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1998)