$1.5M Settlement in Death of a Woman in 2014 DUI Car Crash in N.J.

The owners of a now-closed New Jersey bar will pay a $1.5 million settlement to the estate of a 26-year-old New Jersey woman who died in a 2014 DUI car crash after her boyfriend got drunk at the bar and drove her away in her car.

The victim, Tiffany Soto, of Howell, N.J., died early on the morning of April 20, 2014, after her boyfriend, Edwin Martinez, drove away from the tavern after getting into a fight with other customers at the former Connolly Station bar on Main Street in Belmar, according to an Oct. 23 story by The Asbury Park Press.

Martinez had consumed eight or nine juice and vodka cocktails there and then called Soto to ask her to pick him up and bring him home, the story reported. After she arrived to get him, he got into a fight and then smashed a window in another car in the parking lot with the tire iron from Soto’s 2010 Honda Civic. He then pushed her out of the driver’s seat of the car and forced his way into her car, driving it onto Route 35 where he smashed Soto’s Civic into another car being driven by a pregnant woman, the story continued.

After that crash, Martinez drove the crunched Honda from the crash scene, hit a curb and rolled the car, where it landed on its roof in the parking lot of the Belmar Marina, the story reported. The car slid into a parked truck near the water and Soto was thrown from the car and into the Shark River, where she drowned. She also suffered from blunt force trauma to her head in the crash.

Martinez, who was 22 when the incident occurred, had a blood-alcohol level of .207 two hours after the crash, putting him at almost three times the legal limit of .08, according to Soto’s attorney. Soto’s attorney argued that Martinez was visibly drunk while he was at the bar but that the bar continued to negligently serve him additional alcoholic drinks.

fatal crash

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/tillsonburg

Soto’s estate sued 8th Avenue Ventures, the corporate parent of the now-closed Connolly Station bar after the crash. Martinez later pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 2016. He is scheduled for release in November of 2022.

This case is a classic example of what can happens when a bar or restaurant continues to serve alcoholic beverages to a drunk patron after they have become visibly intoxicated. Under what are called dram shop laws, bar owners and others who make a profit selling alcohol are responsible for the consequences of continuing to serve alcohol to someone who is over the limit.

Dram laws also apply if the person who is served alcohol is underage. By serving additional drinks to someone and then allowing them to leave the establishment in that condition, tavern owners can be held responsible for injuries to others. If a person is visibly intoxicated, the law says that a tavern owner should cease serving alcohol at that point.

Pennsylvania’s Dram shop liability law is named for a “dram shop,” which is a 1700’s term for a tavern that sold alcoholic drinks by the then-popular dram, which is a small unit of measure. The dram laws are there to help victims and their families when they are hugely impacted through the deaths of loved ones at the hands of drunk drivers whose drinking binges are not halted by the keen observations of restaurant and bar staff members in a moment’s notice. Dram shop rules exist to protect society as a whole and to punish bars and restaurants that continue to serve alcohol to customers who are already intoxicated.

Tavern owners must know that continuing to serve patrons once they are intoxicated is not acceptable, and that they will be held accountable. That is what correctly happened in this tragic case where a young woman lost her life senselessly due to the negligence of others.

Legal cases like this one occur around the nation every day and are examples of similar kinds of cases that MyPhillyLawyer attorneys regularly work on tirelessly for our own clients. Often, we are not able to discuss the cases we are actively working on due to confidentiality requirements, so we discuss other relevant cases in the news such as this one to illustrate the legal situations people find themselves in every day.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in any kind of fall, workplace injury or vehicle incident anywhere in the United States. We pledge to make sure that you and your family get the compassionate, dogged and experienced legal representation that you deserve and expect from a professional legal team which works hard to uncover every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-914-5471 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

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