Failure to monitor drunken patron

A tavern may be liable for negligence if it makes no effort to keep a visibly drunk patron safe, even though his drinking may have been done elsewhere. In a case of first impression, the Appellate Division held in Bauer v. Nesbitt, decided March 20, 2008, that a bar owner can be sued for failing to prevent a patron from getting into a car with another patron who was visibly intoxicated and later caused the passenger’s death. The court held that if the bar’s employees should have recognized that the passenger was drunk, even if he was not served alcohol there (the passenger only drank a Coke at the bar), there was a duty to protect him from foreseeable injury as the result of an automobile accident by insuring he did not drive and that he did not ride as a passenger with a patron who was similarly impaired. This is the first decision holding that if a patron becomes visibly intoxicated and the bar’s employees know or should have known, the patron should not be permitted to leave without trying to find safe transportation.

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC, a 19-attorney law firm dedicated to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers' compensation claims. Greg is the author of a popular series of "Handbooks" on workers' compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers' Compensation Practice Guide. Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@lois-llc.com