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6 posts from March 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NYT: Reason to Get Involved

3.26.12 NYT mention cropped

Read op-ed:

The Times of Trenton | New York Times

Thursday, March 22, 2012

In case you missed it: NJCJI offers advice to NJ business owners

In an op-ed in the Times of Trenton this week, NJCJI discusses why it’s important to engage with local elected officials.  It is intended to be a guide for the state’s small business owners, but it can apply to everyone who’s ever been curious about who makes the rules by which we all need to abide. 

You can read it in The Times here, or on NJCJI’s website

Friday, March 16, 2012

Budget Break 2012. What’s a New Jersey Tort Reformer to do?

New Jersey’s annual “budget break” is the period between the end of March and June when Assembly and Senate Budget Committees meet to finalize the next fiscal year’s budget.  The emphasis on budgetary matters can seemingly push legal reform to the back burner, as the rest of the Legislature remains in recess and voting sessions are suspended. 

But as Lawsuit Reform Watch noted last year at this time, one of the most appealing aspects about legal reform is that it has the power to spur economic growth while being budget-neutral.  There are some things tort reformers can do:

Attend NJCJI’s Membership Luncheon, featuring Assembly Majority Leader Lou GreenwaldAssemblyman Greenwald recently assumed the title of Assembly Majority Leader in the Democratic Caucus.  What legal reform progress does he envision in the near future?  Come hear his thoughts on all things legal reform on Tuesday, April 10th, at noon.  You will be in the company of 60+ business leaders, association presidents, and NJCJI members at this event.  Paul Matey, Deputy Chief Counsel to Governor Christie, will also deliver remarks.  There is no cost to attend, but registration is required.  Click here to registerDirections to NJ CAR are available here

Take a look at your municipal budget.  How much money is your town or city spending on litigation costs?  It’s probably much higher than you think.  Could some endangered local government service be spared if its litigation tab weren’t so high?   Perhaps it’s worth mentioning at your next town council meeting, especially if a lot of cases are referred to expensive private firms.  You’ll be happy you spoke up when your next property tax bill is due.

Follow NJCJI.  In addition to subscribing to our blog feed, we are active on Facebook and Twitter.  And as rumor has it, a Pintrest board may be in the works.  In addition to legislative developments and the latest doctor shortage statistics, we’ll be sure to let you know which New Jersey bar will be the next sued by patrons for ‘making’ them drunk

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Deborah Dowdell will be missed

Deborah Dowdell Headshot 1.2010_612435457_352012172814NJCJI is saddened by the death of one of our most vocal members, Deborah Dowdell, who headed the New Jersey Restaurant Association (NJRA). 

Deborah passed away on March 2nd after a long battle with cancer.  She will be missed. 

Click here for a touching tribute to Deborah in New Jersey Newsroom

Monday, March 05, 2012

Unnamed Trenton Bar is the latest New Jersey establishment to be sued for a patron’s intoxication

Whether you live or work in the Trenton area (or just read about it on occasion), you may remember the unfortunate death of a man who had fallen into a snow bank at the intersection of South Warren and West Front streets last winter. 

Quirino Azcona, a popular deliveryman whom friends called “Cabrera,” stopped at an unnamed bar after his shift ended at Supreme Food in the City’s South Ward in late January 2011.  Fresh snow lined the path he took to his residence in the West Ward.  Surveillance footage suggests that he was heavily intoxicated, stumbling several times before he fell into a snow bank and didn’t get up.  He laid there for an unspecified period of time, hidden from sight by the snow, before he was tragically caught in a city plow and gruesomely killed.

In addition to the City, Azcona’s estranged wife and children have decided to sue the bar. 

"The bar served him to the point where he was intoxicated," his lawyer said in a statement to the Times of Trenton.  "The poor guy got drunk, went out into the snow and got run over by a snowplow.”

Yes, the poor guy got drunk after drinking alcohol.  What reasonable adult could anticipate such a consequence?

The weather conditions certainly were a key contributor to Azcona’s accident, but I suppose the bar is a defendant when Mother Nature is unavailable.   We’ve seen similar situations before. 

We’ve all been warned about the consequences of drinking and driving (really, the consequences of drinking and doing just about anything), which is why most bar patrons take precautions when consuming alcohol.  But as the suing-the-bar-where-you-voluntarily-drank-alcohol-trend continues, the courts are allowing the intoxicated and their kin to shift responsibility to others rather than hold them responsible for their actions (see Voss vs. Tranquilino, Killarney’s in Hamilton, et. all). 

We probably won’t ever know if the unnamed bar in question is the only establishment Azcona patronized on the night of his death, or whether things may have turned out differently if he had been walking with a friend instead of alone.  But we can use his untimely death as an opportunity to remind the public to take weather conditions into account when enjoying a night out, even when planning to walk.  And, hopefully, keep others from meeting a similar fate.  This isn’t something that a lawsuit can do. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys will argue that personal responsibility is too much of a buzz kill for patrons, so the bar needs to supervise the adults in their presence.  But judging by the comments associated with the Times of Trenton’s story, it seems that most of us agree that having a bar play nanny to its patrons is a greater buzz bill.   

Azcona certainly isn’t the first person to pass out in a drunken stupor after leaving a bar.  But if the suing-the-bar-where-you-voluntarily-drank-alcohol-trend continues in New Jersey, nightlife in the Garden State may undergo an involuntary rehab.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Touting tort reform before business

Read Andrew Kitchenman’s story in NJ BIZ about the prospect for lawsuit reform this year:

 

Marcus Rayner HeadshotAdvocates of lawsuit reform are touting the possibility of significant bills to reform the state's laws governing class action and consumer fraud cases, signaling what may become the biggest opening for changes since the 1990s.

A pair of bills introduced this session would limit the cost to post bonds for corporations that are appealing judgments, and would allow the subjects of class-action lawsuits to directly appeal the determination that a "class" exists.


The state's most prominent lawsuit reform advocate may be Marcus Rayner, president of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, which launched in 2007 to bolster lobbying on tort reform and related issues.

Rayner said the political climate is shaping up to be good for the bills.

"I think the business community has been impressed with this legislative leadership's interest with helping," along with that of Gov. Chris Christie, Rayner said.

Rayner said tort reforms in other states — including North Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas — increased pressure on New Jersey.

"A climate of excess litigation drives up the costs for everybody, from the business owner to the consumer," he said.

Read full story.