Wednesday, March 26, 2008
In this week's Writ Column on FindLaw, Tony Sebok analyzes an interesting dram shop case in New Jersey: Bauer v. Nesbitt. As Sebok explains, Bauer involved several young men who were drinking at the C View Inn in Cape May, NJ. One young man, James Hamby, was visibly intoxicated. He left with his friend Frederick Nesbitt, who was not visibly intoxicated and - to the restaurant's knowledge - had been drinking soda all evening. Nesbitt crashed his car, killing Hamby. Hamby's estate sued Nesbitt and the C View Inn under New Jersey's Dram Shop Law. The trial court dismissed the suit against the C View Inn, but in a recent opinion, the appellate court reversed.
As Sebok notes, the appellate court "held that the risks that the Dram Shop Act was intended to prevent were not just accidents resulting from drunk-driving, but also any accidents that could foreseeably result from intoxication." Sebok argues that the appellate court "created a new duty in Bauer. It essentially held that since Hamby, the passenger, was visibly drunk, the bar had a duty to protect him against his own bad judgment which led him to accept a ride from Nesbitt, the driver. The problem with this logic, however, is that while Nesbitt was too drunk to drive, and Hamby knew it, the staff at the bar did not."
The full column analyzes the underlying rationales of the decision, the precedents cited by the court, and the potential policy implications. Give the column a read!