Fredrick Voss suffered injuries in a motorcycle crash after drinking enough at Tiffany’s Restaurant to have a blood alcohol content nearly two and one-half times the legal limit. Voss sued Tiffany’s under the state’s Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, commonly known as the Dram Shop Act. The Dram Shop Act allows people who suffer a loss to sue licensed servers who knowingly served an intoxicated person prior to an accident. Tiffany’s filed a motion to dismiss, citing New Jersey’s No Fault Act, which precludes a DUI offender from recovering damages for losses resulting from a motor vehicle accident.
The defendant appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court after both the Superior Court and the Appellate Division denied the motion to dismiss. NJCJI argued in an amicus curiae brief that the plain language of the No Fault Act clearly provides that that an impaired driver may not sue for recovery of his or her injuries.
The court affirmed the Appellate Division on a 5-2 vote holding that it was not clear that the Legislature meant to engage in an implied partial repeal of the Dram Shop Act when it enacted the No Fault Act. Furthermore, the court argued, allowing suits by people who have been charged with a DWI will deter drunk driving by further incentivizing taverns to stop serving visibly intoxicated patrons. Justice Albin, joined by Justice Rivera-Soto, issued a dissenting opinion blasting the majority for “engaging in judicial tinkering” to suit its policy choices.