Underage Drinking Leads to Serious Consequences

A New Jersey apartment complex was hit with a $7.4 million judgment and an Old Bridge teenager was put under house arrest in two separate incidents involving underage drinking.

A jury found the Excelsior Apartments in Hackensack culpable in a hit-and-run accident, which left a New Jersey cardiologist seriously injured because the driver involved was drinking at a complex-hosted party just prior to the accident, despite the fact that he was under the legal drinking age. (1)

Dr. Henry Lau, former chief cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, suffered multiple injuries when he was hit by a speeding car driven by 20-year-old David Figueroa. Figueroa fled the scene of the accident but was later caught and charged with assault by automobile and with leaving the scene of an accident. (1)

Both of Lau’s legs, along with his back, pelvis and several ribs were broken in the accident; he also received severe injuries to his face. As a result, Lau was hospitalized and spent six months undergoing rehabilitation. The doctor also had several operations to repair his injuries. Figueroa received a sentence of two months jail time, five years probation and 180 hours of community service.

Lau’s suit against the apartment complex claimed that the building’s employees played a part in the accident by hosting a pool party and allowing Figueroa to drink. Also named in the suit was Gabriel Ortiz, a doorman at the complex who, the suit alleged, granted permission for the party to take place.

The jury found that the Excelsior was 55% responsible for the accident; Figueroa, 25% responsible and Ortiz, 20% responsible. Under New Jersey law, the defendant charged with the majority of responsibility can be required to pay all of the damages, as was the case in this verdict. (1)

In a separate incident, 17-year-old Cash Johnson is under house arrest after being discovered in an intoxicated state at a sweet 16 party in Matawan. Johnson was one of five Old Bridge teenagers who had been charged in the beating death of Old Bridge man earlier this summer. In connection with that case, Johnson was released on $300,000 bail and issued a curfew.

When police investigated complaints about the November 13 sweet 16 party, they discovered Johnson intoxicated and in violation of his curfew. (2)

In New Jersey, the legal age for purchasing, possessing and consuming alcoholic beverages is 21. (3)

(1) http://www.northjersey.com/news/109387604_Apartment_complex_must_pay__7_4M_in_DWI_crash.html

(2) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/11/old_bridge_teen_accused_of.html

(3) http://www.state.nj.us/lps/hts/alcohol.html