SW Legal studies in Business

Standards for Application of Dram Shop Act Lower for Self-Service Alcohol

New Jersey high court held that when an organization allows self-service of alcohol, it has an obligation to stop visibly intoxicated guests from drinking, but does not have a duty to monitor the intake of every person.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Wrongful Death; Dram Shop Act; Duty

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The Happy Hour Social and Athletic Club had a permit to dispense alcohol at its yearly pig roast picnic. Guests could serve themselves from a tap in a beer truck brought in for the event. One of the guests got drunk. While driving three others to a bar after the event, he lost control of his car and killed all four people. Survivors sued the Club for liability under the Dram Shop Act for serving too much alcohol. The trial court held for the Club and the appeals court agreed. Survivors appealed to the New Jersey high court.


Affirmed. If an organization, such as the Club, allowed self-service of beer to continue when a guest was visibly intoxicated, then the organization was negligent under the Dram Shop Act. In this case, there was evidence that the organization did not allow the guest to serve himself alcohol when he was visibly intoxicated. Under the Act, licensed alcoholic beverage servers that permit self-service of alcohol do not have a duty to monitor how much alcohol is consumed by every patron, only to monitor those who become visibly intoxicated.


Mazzacano v. Estate of Kinnerman, 962 A.2d 1103 (Sup. Ct., N.J., 2009)

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