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Lewes, Delaware
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December 19, 1997     Cape Gazette
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December 19, 1997
 

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14 - CAPE GAZETFE, Friday, December 19 - December 25, 1997 jJ's Law Continued from page 1 vain." Joseph Jeffrey "JJ" Stein III, died in August after a fall from a Route 1 bridge that crosses the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. He was reportedly seen in several bars be- fore he left a private party On foot early in the morning of Aug. 16. He was later found, severely in- jured, on Oyster Road beneath the bridge. It was this accident site that Spence chose to make his an- nouncement of" JJ's Law." Dian Stein and her husband, Jay, have pledged to do what they can to spare others the grief of los- ing a son in the manner that they did. They hope that H.B. 422 is a step in stopping the irresponsible sale and use of alcohol In announcing the proposed leg- islation last week, Spence, the Speaker of the House of Repre- sentatives, said, "I'm naming this bill after J.J. Stein, not because I believe it would have prevented his death, but because his case is an unfortunate example of how al- cohol use can get out of hand and result in a needless loss of life." Callable Cor mrate Bond A legislative first The legislation, which was pre- filed yesterday, would permit civil action that could lead to damage awards up to $500,000 for person- al injury and $250,000 for proper- ty damage. As the Delaware Alco- holic Beverage COntrol Commis- sion regulations currently exist, servers who are found negligent are subject to having a license re- voked or suspended. A Delaware Supreme Court decision currently bars an individual from suing for liability and seeking monetary awards. Spence said more than 35 other states already have some form of "dram shop law." He thinks such enactment here would compli- ment legislation he recently intro- duced that would lower the blood alcohol level for determining dri- ving under the influence from . 1 percent to .08 percent. "My intent is to reduce the inci- dence of deaths and personal in- juries related to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol," he said. "We're not trying to lay blame or point any fingers, but clearly there is a problem here that needs to be addressed." Many in the Cape Region are willing to acknowledge that there might be a problem to be ad- dressed, however, there is no con- sensus that H.B. 422 is necessarily a viable method of doing so. Question of responsibility Sen. George Bunting (D- Bethany Beach) said that those who have contacted him have questions regarding enforcement of the proposed law and how to establish responsibility in an acci- dent resulting from irresponsible consumption of alcohol. "Everyone is in agreement that what happened to JJ is so sad, a terrible tragedy. All our hearts go out to the Stein family," Bunting said. "But then, people say it comes back to the point of ac- countability. There are also. the questions of how the server tracks who is buying what for whom in crowded bar situations? What about a liquor store who sells to an individual who has an accident? It's a tough issue. Who are you going to penalize, the person drinking or the server? "I am waiting for the first per- son to say 'That's a great thing!' " Chip Hearn, president of the Delaware Restaurant Association and owner of the Starboard Restaurant, joins Bunting in won- dering why liquor stores are not listed as being eligible for liability as H:B. 422 is written. He said that the restaurant association has not met since the bill was an- nounced last week, so he cannot make an official comment for that organization at this time. However, he said he has seen a copy of the bill and he does have questions regarding the feasibility and necessity of further legisla- tion. "I can guarantee that there will be amendments offered if it re- mains as it is currently written," Hearn said. "We have to establish an understanding of where re- sponsibility lies. We have to ad- dress the concept that liquor stores are not listed in the legislation. "Also, liquor insurance is not easy to get; we need to look at costs and availability." Sydney Arzt, president of the Rehoboth Beach Restaurant Asso- ciation and a member of the Delaware Restaurant Association, said there has been a lot of infor- mal conversation regarding the proposed legislation since last week. She said the Rehoboth Beach association will discuss the issue formally at a January meet- ing. "'I will say that those of us in the industry were never apprised of the intent of the bill nor was it shown to any of us before it was introduced," she said. "Certainly, we are all interested in the safety and well-being of our customers and friends. But, I do think that it would have been useful if we had the opportunity to discuss the leg- islition before it was announced." Spence did not return calls from the Cape Gazette, but Joe Ful- gham, House of Representatives communications officer, said there are no other sponsors for Angle Moon photo Sen. Terry Speee (R-Stratford) announces his plans to in- troduce legislation known as "JJ's Law" at a press conference Dec. 12 held a the site close to where JJ Stein fell from the Route 1 bridge in Rehoboth in August. Steins parents, Jay and Dian, stand in the background. H.B. 422 at this time. He said it is likely that the bill be will reprint- ed in January after the General Assembly is in session and other legislators will sign on as spon- sors at that time. "It is still very early in the process," he said. "The bill was only prefiled [Dec. 18] and there will be no caucuses until after the session opens. Basically, individ- ual legislators have done some discussion and networking at this point, but nothing official will happen until we are back in ses- sion." 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