A New Jersey appeals court ruled Wednesday that liquor establishments are not protected by a state law that bars drunken drivers involved in accidents from suing other parties for economic and noneconomic damages.

It may be true that drivers who endanger highway safety by driving drunk should be penalized by losing their right to sue, but the owners of licensed premises have the expertise and statutory obligation to avoid serving intoxicated patrons and setting them loose on New Jersey’s highways, the court said in Voss v. Tranquilino, A-5431.