Mauger v. Lavallette Inn Inc.: A Lavallette tavern will pay $5 million to a 30-year-old Colts Neck woman who can no longer speak or move as the result of an auto accident caused by her own intoxication.
The money was awarded in a nonbinding arbitration on Dec. 3. The arbitrator, Teresa Gierla, a partner with Toms River's Lomell Muccifori Adler Ravaschiere Amabile & Pehlivanian, found that Marie Mauger, suffered $10 million in damages, but halved the award because she was not wearing a seat belt at the lime. of the accident.
Mauger went to the Lavallette Inn on Oct 4, 1994 and began drinking at 6:30 p.m. She left the bar at 9 p.m. and was driving west on Route 37 in Dover when her Cadillac El Dorado jumped the center island, crossed into the eastbound lane and collided head-on with a pickup truck. Blood drawn at 10:42 p.m. for a toxicological analysis found her serum alcohol content at 0.322 percent; the legal limit is 0.10 percent.
The case had been set to go to trial in Monmouth County in March. Mauger's lawyer, Manasquan solo Douglas Hanna, says he was prepared to call two witnesses to testify that Mauger was drunk by 7:50 p.m., and continued to drink and get more intoxicated until she left. An alcohol expert was proffered to testify that Mauger had a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent by 7:45 p.m. and 0.20 percent by the time she left the bar and that because of her significant alcohol consumption , Mauger overestimated her ability to drive carefully Hanna says that by continuing to serve Mauger, the bar caused the accident.
Mauger suffered a torn aorta, neurological damage and severe head injuries. As a result of the accident, says Hanna, she cannot speak and communicates by pointing to letters. She has visual disorder and suffers seizures. Because of the high risk of choking, her teeth were removed. She is confined to a wheelchair and presently lives at the James Montgomery Home in Colts Neck.
In the five years since the accident. Mauger has paid $500,000 in medical bills, and Hanna says lifetime care will cost $130,OOO annually. Joseph Cooney, a partner with Oakhurst's Widman, Cooney & Barrett who represented the tavern had no comment. - By Matt Ackermann