Caught With A DUI In New Jersey? You Can Now Blame The Bar That Served You

from the liability? dept

This is from a few weeks back, but techinabox writes in to point out the latest in ridiculously misapplied third party liability. It appears that in New Jersey, if you get good and drunk at a bar, and then hop in your car and get into legal trouble for driving under the influence (DUI), you can blame the bar for serving you... and win. The state supreme court said that it's perfectly reasonable for Fredrick Voss to sue the bar that served him drinks, even though he was the one who drove to the bar on his motorcycle, drank a bunch, and then got back on his motorcycle after drinking, drove off, ran a red light and got into an accident. A lower court still needs to determine if the bar actually is liable, but the supreme court seems to have no issue with holding bars liable in such situations. It's pretty scary that we keep seeing stories concerning attempts to stretch third party liability. Beyond blaming the wrong party, third party liability only serves to take responsibility off the parties actual responsible. It's a bad idea... but one that seems to be getting more and more popular.


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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 3:40pm

    We have a similar situation in Ontario (not sure about the rest of Canada) wherein anyone serving alcohol needs a "SmartServe" certification, which is supposed to affirm that they can recognize and not serve anyone who has gotten dangerously shitfaced. However, that just has to do with liability in the event of death/injury/destruction/etc: a bar can get in trouble if they serve someone way past what's sensible and then that person goes out and gets in a car accident and kills themselves or someone else. As far as I know it doesn't actually remove any liability from the drinker/driver, it just adds potential liability for the server as well.

     

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    MrWilson, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:04pm

    How are bars supposed to know if you're driving home or not?

    Seems like they're creating a situation where bars have to spend more money hiring more staff to give the leaving patrons a sobriety test before letting them get in their cars.

     

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    Brad Hubbard (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:04pm

    There's a silver lining

    The upside to this is that if New Jersey bars think they might get sued if they let total dickbags get wasted and leave, they might just stop serving them alcohol when they're wasted.

    I'm pretty sure the women of NJ are about to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:05pm

    Strategy!

    These moves are piece-by-piece furthering the idea of a 'nanny state' where everybody is responsible legally for everybody, and the gov takes care of everything.

    _sigh_ Time to emigrate, I suppose.

     

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    justok (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:12pm

    k, ad I'm seeing is for Chivas. I's gonna sue TechDirt! Ur my bess pal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:15pm

    Perhaps part of the problem is the fact that taxi cab services are made artificially expensive and scarce thanks to govt imposed monopolies.

     

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    anonymous, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:17pm

    i suppose the server literally held the guy down, shoved a pipe in his mouth and just kept pouring the alcohol into him, forcing him to swallow the lot. sounds to me as if he was 'special ops' rather than a bar keep.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:21pm

    It's called dram shop law. It's not new at all.

     

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    Norm Petterson, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:22pm

    Will it settle?

    1. I believe that individuals should be responsible for their own actions.
    2. I don't think the bar owners should be over-serving people whether they are driving or not.
    3. "A lower court still needs to determine if the bar actually is liable...". I would not be surprised if this case gets "quietly settled". I would imagine that if it were determined that the bar was at fault then that would have repercussions for the alcohol producers, bar and restaurant owners, professional Sports teams (anyone notice the alcoholic debauchery after a football game?) etc. I am sure any of these organizations would gladly through a few hundred thousand dollars at the problem and make it go away for a little while (till the next idiot decides to sue).

     

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    MunkiLord (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    Dram Shop Law

    Ima Fish, from my understanding that only applies in the case of accidents. Which as a long time server/bartender, I actually have no problem with it. I shouldn't serve people to the point of being shit faced.

    But this New Jersey case seems to have the potential to expand that to simple DUIs in which the bar can be sued by the driver if he/she simply gets pulled over and arrested. That I don't agree with at all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:41pm

    Re:

    Perhaps part of the problem is the fact that taxi cab services are made artificially expensive and scarce thanks to govt imposed monopolies.

    That *always* seem to be the result of such laws.

     

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    anothermike, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:50pm

    Re:

    Dram shop law mentioned below, adds liability to the bar after an accident. Arizona has the same thing, which is why many bars here don't give you a receipt. (So the cops don't know the last bar you were drinking at)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:54pm

    i swear, stop depressing me techdirt, from the erosion of the constitution to corporate state taking more control and now british style nanny state laws, i can only take so much

     

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    boomhouser, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:54pm

    Guns next

    That shotgun grandpa gave you. Poor grandpa...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:56pm

    Re: Re:

    Arizona has the same thing, which is why many bars here don't give you a receipt. (So the cops don't know the last bar you were drinking at)

    Which would also preclude them from taking credit cards. That seems like it would make it kind of hard for most bars to stay in business.

     

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    twistedmentat (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 4:59pm

    It's already illegal in NZ

    Down here in New Zealand it is illegal for a licensed premise to serve alcohol to anyone that is intoxicated. Whether they're driving home or not.

    As we also have a UHC and ACC the only thing the licensed premise has to worry about are bad press, massive fines, and losing their license.

     

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    Shane C (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:01pm

    Two drink minimum

    It's interesting. This may eliminate the "two drink minimum" imposed by many clubs, and entertainment establishments.

    Then again, it might impose a "two drink maximum" at many places.

    In the long run, it will probably just create another mandatory insurance situation. You won't be able to have a liquor license in NJ without carrying insurance for when someone gets drunk.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:06pm

    Most states (not sure about New Jersey) have a "comparative negligence" doctrine (I might be getting that terminology wrong) whereby any damages are split depending on each party's level of liability.

    So, if the plaintiff is 90% liable for his own accident and the bar is 10% responsible, as determined by the jury, then the bar only pays up 10% of the damages. Some states say if the plaintiff is 51% or more responsible for the damages, then the defendant pays nothing.

    So, that sort of tempers a lot of the potential ill effects of being allowed to sue someone who played a relatively small role in an accident.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:07pm

    Re: Dram Shop Law

    He's not using dram shop as a defense to his DUI. He's suing the bar for his accident:
    "Drunken drivers who get into accidents may sue the taverns where they were overserved, under a split state Supreme Court decision Wednesday in an appeal by a Toms River restaurant being sued by a Brick man."

    That's dram shop. And once again, it's not new.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:14pm

    Why stop at Bars?

    Sue the roads he was driving in. Sue the vehicle producer. Sue the red light installer, runner, maintainer and producer. Sue the liquor that he drank. Sue the county that issued that bar a permit. Sue the person that signed the permit. Sue it's own boss for paying him enough to spend on drinks. Sue the government for issuing the money with which he payed. Sue the other patrons in the bar for not stopping him. Sue the oil company that sold him the fuel needed to make the vehicle work.

    I bet he would make enough in settlements to turn a profit.

    Why should we have common sense stop us on the way to make a profit?

     

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    Big Al, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:22pm

    Re: It's already illegal in NZ

    Same in Australia. However, intoxicated and over the legal driving limit are not necessarily the same thing. You don't have to be slurring and / or swaying to be over the .05 DUI limit.

     

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    John Doe, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:24pm

    This has been coming for a long time

    Third party liability has been coming for a long time. It is only a matter of time before it hits full scale. If you think your insurance rates are high now, wait until 3rd parties can sue. Your personal rates and that of business will increase greatly. People want to sue bars for drunk drivers, gun manufacturers for gun violence and so on.

     

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    Chargone (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Strategy!

    actually, the 'nanny state' is usually used to refer to a situation where the state controls and regulates (and where possible Does) everything so people don't have (or get) to make choices.

    the USA is so far away from That it's not funny. you're not looking at a nanny state so much as a police state there. third party liability is yet another factor discouraging actions disliked by those in power and encouraging those with a grudge (or simply trying to get out of something) to report on those around them.

     

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    Chargone (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:26pm

    Re: Strategy!

    actually, the 'everyone is responsible for everyone else otherwise you all get punished' thing is a trick taken straight from armies and slavers (different punishments and reasons, same method and logic)... whether intentionally or not.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:26pm

    Re:

    "How are bars supposed to know if you're driving home or not?"

    Does he live in the building? Is the bar in New York City? If not, chances are he has to drive home.

    "Seems like they're creating a situation where bars have to spend more money hiring more staff to give the leaving patrons a sobriety test before letting them get in their cars."

    Nope, it's simply against the law (and has been for a real long time) for bartenders to serve visibly intoxicated people. It really doesn't matter if he has to drive or walk. If you serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person and he's in an accident because of your negligence, he (and anyone else injured) can sue.

    Is it the drinkers's fault? Sure. But is it also the fault of the bar for serving him when he was visibly intoxicated? Yep. And it's a jury question to determine the proportion each has to pay.

     

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    Chargone (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:27pm

    Re:

    on the other hand, someone who is already drunk is hardly in their right mind when it comes to decision making, either.

     

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    abc gum, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:29pm

    Is the bar then within their rights to stop an inebriated patron from leaving? What recourse is there?

     

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    John Doe, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:36pm

    What if others buy the drinks for you?

    What happens if the drunk is having his buddies buy his rounds? Is the bar liable or the buddies?

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 5:45pm

    Re: Re:

    Nope, it's simply against the law (and has been for a real long time) for bartenders to serve visibly intoxicated people

    That's a really tough standard. Some people can be blotto and look fine. Others can BE fine and then toss back a beer and be dangerous.

    Regardless, you're removing the responsibility from the offending party (or at least spreading it around.)

     

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    Parkway Cozy, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 6:01pm

    Wait, wait, wait

    But can he blame the dealership who sold him the bike? The insurance company who sold him the insurance? What about the Wall Street hedge fund that carries his mortgage? Oh, the possibilities are endless!

     

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    Mikael (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    What about groups of people?

    With everyone saying people should not serve someone that is already drunk, I completely agree, but what about someone buying drinks for other people? What if you have a group of 5 people and the one buying drinks for other people is the one not drinking? What if, in that group, there is a different person each time going up to buy drinks and each one gets the drinks from different bartenders? How are they going to keep track of how much each person has had to drink?

    I don't think the bars should be held instantly liable for someone getting drunk at their bar and then getting into an accident because they decided to drive. The bar employees should probably be questioned and then held liable if they served the person past the point of inebriation.

    Here's another "what if". What if a person meets some friends at a bar and they get this person drunk. The bartenders don't know this person is drunk enough to cause themselves harm (multiple bartenders on a very busy night) and the person even leaves the bar with the group. Once outside that person decides they are not going with the others and gets in their own car to leave. The shitty "friends" let this person drive off only to get into an accident later. How could someone say the bar is responsible for that accident?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 6:44pm

    Re: What about groups of people?

    In this case I would sue the car manufacturer, the "friends", the bartenders and then the bar!

     

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    MrWilson, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 7:00pm

    Re: Re:

    How are bars supposed to know if the guy lives in the building, down the street, or across the river? Accent test?

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 8:01pm

    OK, to be fair, this just allows the lawsuit to go ahead and we don't know what the court ruled on. If the supreme court ruled at this stage of the case it was probably on a technical issue that was far removed from the merits.

     

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    AW (profile), Jun 21st, 2011 @ 8:21pm

    Re:

    If the Supreme Court rules on anything these days you can almost bet you've lost another constitutional right. You know just once I'd wish that we could have this kind of grown up talk the whole day instead we get libertarians saying it's your own fault, liberals saying we need more government oversight, conservatives saying this proves we needs to have more tools to monitor the public covertly, for safety reasons of course, and corporations complaining that the position of one of the above is making it harder for them to do business in the USA even though they have no US manufacturing, R&D, customer service or warehousing. Why are we still using a broken record player in the digital age anyways?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 8:25pm

    Dram shop laws apply to THIRD party VICTIMS and intoxicated minors.

    If the drunk person leaves a bar, gets into a car and hurts someone, that someone can sue the bar. Historically, the drunk driver, unless he was a minor, never had standing to sue the bar for his own issues.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 10:00pm

    again, dram shop law... its been around for a long time... the state expects the establishment on staff to have a grasp on how intoxicated its patrons are... this is nothing new...

     

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    Reina, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 10:47pm

    Silly Laws?

    My dad pays so much for a licence to sell alcohol in NJ, That plus overhead,insurance, taxes,even in a down economy where he is losing money. He is elderly and still running his tavern and not collecting Social Security. Now he has to worry about another thing that could wipe him out financially. Lovely. What happened to taking responsibility for one's own actions? And my dad does stop serving people that are beyond intoxicated and has even offered to drive some people home or feed them to avoid them driving drunk. Bar owners are not all greedy and senseless, especially with a costy license that can be taken away. But it shouldn't ever be easy for someone to sue another for their own bad judgement. BTW, a license in NJ to renew yearly is about 6000, the license itself 60,000-300,000 depending on location and difficulty to attain in an area, liquor costs come instant state tax added to all liquor purchased in a quarter, whether you sell it or not!, plus overhead, rent/mortgage,utilities, staff, yearly insurance 5,000 and up, etc.. So why would anyone risk so much loss intentionally? Also, it doesn't make sense to be licensed to sell alcohol by a state that then penalizes them for any infringement. The state rapes the establishement already with fees, costs and taxes, then allows the clients to be able to as well...

     

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    Prisoner 201, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 2:02am

    Re: Re:

    Kind of makes you wonder why a drug that impairs your ability for consequence prediction and critical thinking is even legal. It's like the master recepie for trouble isn't it?

    Drink a little and you just have more fun. Drink too much and pretty much anything can happen. Problem is, once you start drinking your ability to judge in what state you are diminshes.

    And how can you be held accountable when your decision making process was altered by a drug, its like temporary insanity.

    Every friday. And saturday. And some wednesdays.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 2:55am

    One of the many reasons the rest of the world thinks the US is a big joke and its take on law, order and democracy shouldn't be adopted by anyone

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 2:56am

    Re:

    Blame everyone else and Sue them while your at it

     

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    AJ, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:18am

    Re: Re:

    It should be against the law for fast food to serve a visibly fat consumer as well.... yea.... then perhaps we can finally put the "so fat you have to buy 2 seats on a plane" issue...

     

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    AJ, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:38am

    I'm all over this one.......

    When your customer orders a drink containing alcohol, you must require them to take a breathalyzer before you serve them, and then sign an agreement stating that they are not drunk and are consuming said alcohol at their own risk (it may help to have a notary on hand). This is because some people, that drink all the time, can be drunk and still appear somewhat sober and/or may have their own "travel" flasks that they are using to "spike" their otherwise non-alcoholic drinks between their alcoholic drinks. With the required breathalyzer, no room for fail. Think of this way, the same reasoning went into the "required ID check", even if the person is obviously a senior citizen, you have to check everyone's id so no one feels singled out.... and to think I fought for this country...

     

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    Aerilus, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:54am

    Re: Re:

    hmm lets see since their is no sidewalk i am going to walk down the middle of a 4 lane highway because it is easier on my feet I just made a judgement call as does any person that gets into a motor vehicle and drives to a bar they also make a conscious choice with at least the first two drinks and i would argue with everyone they no they should stop just like I know I should stop and do stop after one or two and not 8 or nine its called personal responsibility get some. these individuals have options drink at home don't drink don't go to a location where you know the only way you are going to go home is driving yourself then proceed to get shit faced its why we have liquor stores get shitfaced at home and enjoy your own company

     

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    JMG, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Dram Shop Law

    Some states also include social hosts as part of the dram shop law. If you are hosting a gathering at your house and providing free alcohol for your guests and a guest gets in an accident after leaving, then you could be found secondarily (is that a word?) liable.

    Years ago I was at a party in high school. The guy's parents were out of town, and the party got a little out of control. There was an extremely intoxicated girl that got pissed at her friends, got her keys (they were in her car, but she was not driving), and left without telling anyone. No one realized she had left until the police showed up. She had flipped her car into a ditch. Anyway, there was talk of the girl's family suing the parents of my classmate. The girl's friends had to go on record saying that she was drunk prior to arriving to the party.

     

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    whisk33, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 6:30am

    Re: Re:

    Does he live in the building? Is the bar in New York City? If not, chances are he has to drive home.

    Imafish subtlety acknowledges the fact that the use of a designated driver is, as it always has been, something that no one actually believe can be conceivably put into practice...

    Also ignored are taxis, public transportation, drinking responsibly and waiting a couple hours

     

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 7:47am

    Re: Re:

    And? So what?

    If he got drunk on his own at home, do we let him off for the drunk driving because he was drunk and "hardly in his right mind"? Of course not.

    If you voluntarily alter your state of mind through chemical means, you are responsible for everything you do in your new altered state. Period.

     

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    ts, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 8:01am

    ouch

    I stubbed my toe on a door. I'm going to sue DC Shoes because their shoes didn't protect me. I'm also going to sue the person who installed the door, the manufacturer of the door, and the company that cut down the trees used to make the door. And of course, had I not been born, I would never feel such pain, so obviously, I must sue my parents.

     

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    Jason Motley, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 8:26am

    Nothing my fault

    Great now I get off of the DUI now I just need to sue Glock for making the Gun I used to rob the bank because they had to know that I was going to use it to rob this bank. Also I need to sue GM for not making a car that can handle me driving it at 120mph They had to know that I like speed and would do it right?

     

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    JMG, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re: Nothing my fault

    That happened with jockey Willie Shoemaker 10 years ago. Driving his Ford Bronco while intoxicated. Flipped it, and ended up a quadriplegic. Went lawsuit happy and claimed no fault even though his blood alcohol level was .15 or something. I believe he either won a lawsuit or there was a big settlement between him and Ford because it was a defect in the Bronco and not his drunk driving and loss of control of the vehicle that resulted in the Bronco flipping and his spine crushed under the steering wheel. He also sued doctors for malpractice, the hospital he was taken to, and maybe EMS workers that tried to save his life at the site of the accident.

    Here is the Sports Illustrated article about him going all litigation instead of owning up which I read years ago, but don't really remember all the details. All I know is I lost total respect for one of the great jockeys once he went lawsuit happy.

     

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    anothermike, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, ain't that the kicker.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Strategy!

    > These moves are piece-by-piece furthering
    > the idea of a 'nanny state'

    Yep. Here's some more wonderful examples of the government deciding for us how to live our lives:

    Want to go for a swim in King County, WA? You have to wear a life vest now, per government mandate.

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/King-Co-requires-life-vests-for-swimmers-1432255. php

    The food police are at it again as well. Apparently there's nothing to trivial and mundane that the Obama Administration doesn't believe should be the subject of federal regulation.

    http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=44343

    And if that wasn't enough, now the federal government has decided rude sex jokes by college students are an issue of such importance that the federal government must intervene and stamp them out. I can’t believe we’ve had to go this long without the loving embrace of the federal government micromanaging speech and thought and humor in our universities.

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/06/feds-crack-down-campus-flirting-and- sex-jokes#ixzz1Q2KR6jbH

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    If you voluntarily alter your state of mind through chemical means, you are responsible for everything you do in your new altered state. Period.

    And you aren't otherwise? "I'm sorry I ran over that child, Your Honor, but I was sober and therefore not responsible for my actions."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:31pm

    Re: Two drink minimum

    The actual goal to reintroduce prohibition, through the back door, one bit at time.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 4:36pm

    Re: What about groups of people?

    ...what about someone buying drinks for other people?

    That's why many bars won't serve multiple drinks like that to a single person. It also keeps a person from buying a bunch of drinks at once with the intention of drinking them all herself and getting shitfaced without the bartender interfering.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 6:00pm

    Next thing you know, someone will spill hot coffee on herself and sue McDonald's.
    Oh, wait...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2011 @ 9:02pm

    Re:

    Next thing you know, someone will spill hot coffee on herself and sue McDonald's.

    Or some soldier will get his leg blown off stepping on a landmine and want the government to pay. Watch where you're stepping, idiot!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    icon
    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jun 24th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Err, because I say that drunk people are responsible for their actions, I must also believe that sober people aren't? What?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    lauren, Jul 14th, 2011 @ 9:04am

    yes, to a degree...

    the bar is liable, to a degree. if this guy was falling over drunk, the bar obviously has an obligation to cut him off. you cannot sell alcohol to someone who is obviously intoxicated. this is not something new. In reality, it's difficult to prosecute bars and taverns under dram shop laws because they have to prove the bar / tavern knew the patron was obviously intoxicated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2012 @ 8:48pm

    Re:

    no but as a bartender and server you know when someone is drunk and when they need to be cut off thats our job as responsible servers!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    thomas j bragen, May 11th, 2013 @ 11:23am

    Serving drunks

    We are responsible for what we do and we are also part of the human race. I regret not having helped a few of my friends who were drunkards for if I did , I would still have them as friends. I am 80 and drink within my capacity which can be two glasses of wine each time I eat out. When I
    drink three, I am forcing it down. I can tell when a man or woman is getting drunk and so can a bartender. A woman will push her hair back frequently and that is a tell tale sign she has reached her limit. A guy will usually speak louder, and without pausing. There are other signs as well but these are the most visible.Some of us are weaker when it comes to alcohol, and some stronger. The weaker we have to help if we are truly human enough to do so. Tom Bragen, Bayonne, NJ.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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