Another crash allegedly caused by a hit and run drunken driver leaving Meadowlands has raised anew the discussion of the extent of the sporting complex’s liability for the actions of inebriated fans. On May 7, 21-year-old Frank Morocho crashed into nine pedestrians crossing Route 120 shortly after leaving the Mexico v. Ecuador soccer match. Police said Morocho was still intoxicated when they arrested him some time later. Morocho has entered a plea of not guilty.
Back in the days when games were played in Giants Stadium, another notorious crash caused by a drunk fan left a 2-year-old girl paralyzed. Her case against the stadium beer vendor was settled for $23.5 million.
In recent years, the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority has implemented restrictions on drinking at sporting events, but critics say the rules don’t go far enough. Tailgate parties, for example, are limited to five hours duration, while alcohol sales cease after halftime. Season tickets can be revoked if their holders are kicked out for excessive drinking.
As the Morocho case shows, the rules aren’t preventing fans from getting drunk. There’s no limit on alcohol sales prior to halftime, and a five-hour limit on tailgating leaves plenty of time for excessive alcohol consumption.
Under principles of dram shop liability, New Jersey stadium owners and concessionaires can be held liable for the actions of intoxicated fans only if they serve a visibly intoxicated patron or a minor. Their liability extends only to harms that are foreseeable; drunken driving leading to a crash has been found to be a foreseeable consequence of serving a drunk patron. Though the dram shop laws may impose liability on stadium owners and concessionaires, that liability is apportioned according to the relative fault of the parties, including the intoxicated fan.