A New Jersey man who got so drunk playing beer pong at a Greenwich Village pub that he thought walking across a busy highway was a good idea cannot sue the bar over his injuries, a judge has ruled.
In a decision made public yesterday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings threw out Alan Berger’s lawsuit against Wicked Willy’s on Bleecker Street, finding he’d signed up for the fast-paced beer-drinking game of his own free will.
“Despite the game tables, cups and alcohol [that the] defendant bar made available to plaintiff and other bar patrons without serving the alcohol or monitoring its consumption, plaintiff voluntarily engaged in the drinking game” and “consumed alcohol to the point of diminished capacity,” Billings wrote.
Berger was 22 in June 2009, when he got into a heated 3 1/2-hour match with friends playing the game, the object of which is to bounce a pingpong ball into another player’s cup and get them to drink, court papers say.
He took a bus back to New Jersey after the game and was still so drunk he tried to cross Highway 9 near Manalapan and got hit by a car going 50 miles an hour, said his lawyer, Michael Wiseberg.
Berger suffered numerous injuries, including a broken hip, leg and foot, tears in both his knees, and a lacerated liver, the lawyer said. When his blood was checked at the hospital about four hours after he left the bar, his blood alcohol content was .26 — almost four times higher than the legal driving limit.
His suit charges that the bar should have been monitoring the game to make sure players weren’t getting visibly drunk.
Wiseberg said his client didn’t remember making any trips up to the bar. It was his opponents who kept going to get more pitchers of beer.
“He was ‘winning’ and never left the beer-pong table,” Wiseberg said.
“They had just an unlimited amount of beer going on down there,” he said.
The suit sought to hold the bar accountable for having “organized, created, designed and set up” the beer-pong area in the back of the bar, and then failing to monitor it.
It asked for unspecified money damages for his “severe shock, pain and mental anguish.”
“He’s had several operations,” Wiseberg said.
Billings, however, found that beer-pong players are playing at their own risk. While under state law bars can be responsible for drunk patrons injuring other people, they’re not necessarily responsible if they injure themselves. She found the bar had “no duty” to “warn patrons regarding the risks of engaging in the drinking activity” or “monitoring its participants.”
Wiseberg said he will ask the judge to reconsider her ruling, citing New York State Liquor Authority regulations that say beer-pong tournaments are not permitted because they promote drunkenness.
“Based on what the language of that ruling was, they’re not going to countenance anyone having a beer-pong game,” he said. He added the games are aimed at younger patrons, “and they’re not being monitored.“