Welcome to New Jersey, the land of no consequences. Want a beer for the road—or 12?
Nearly five years ago Fredrick Voss of Brick Township in South Jersey rode his motorcycle to Tiffany’s Restaurant in Toms River for some drinks. Normally when a man drives himself to the bar he’s fairly careful of his alcohol intake. It’s for this reason that I rarely drive to a bar and when I do it’s merely to meet friends for a couple drinks and catch a game.
Voss met up with his friends as well, except they were most likely named Sam Adams, Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo and he drank a lot of them. By the time Voss had left the bar he drank his way to a .196 BAC, nearly two and a half times the legal limit. Unsurprisingly Voss crashed his motorcycle and was charged with a DUI.
We’ve all heard this story before: Idiot drinks too much, gets into an accident, loses his license but ultimately learns his lesson. Voss and his attorney didn’t see things that way. In fact they claimed Voss was blameless in his .196 BAC, motorcycle accident and subsequent DUI. So like any good American they filed suit against the restaurant for over-serving.
At first glace Voss’ case is almost laughable. How could a man sue an establishment for giving him drinks that he ordered under him own power? How was a bartender supposed to know he was driving home? Maybe Voss had a high tolerance and didn’t outwardly appear to be drunk. What if Voss lied?
I mean there’s no way this kind of thing could hold up in court right? Well, the one thing about stupidity is sometimes—if you’re bold enough—it might pay off.
Yesterday, the Garden State Supreme Court might have set a very dangerous precedent, ruling 5-2 in favor of the 47-year-old’s ability to sue the bar. Meaning theoretically, people who drive drunk after leaving any bar state of New Jersey can sue the shit out of them for whatever error in judgment they made.
“Today, drunk drivers can evade personal responsibility for their actions and sue restaurateurs in New Jersey for serving them drinks,” said Ann Marie McDonald, spokesman for the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance.
And she’s totally correct. This is one of the most hair-brained decisions I’ve ever seen. Voss knew he was driving home, yet continued to drink, and now there’s a possibility he’ll get a lot more than his bar tab in return. All because of a loophole between contradicting laws.
As a citizen of New Jersey I’ve stayed proud through a lot of embarrassing shit, but this one just feels wrong.