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In recent years, a growing number of states have passed laws protecting retailers from being liable for harms caused by customers served alcohol illegally, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues from Alcohol Policy Consultations, found an erosion of so-called commercial host liability laws from 1989 to 2011, Medical Xpress reports.

These laws hold alcohol retailers liable for harms attributable to alcohol, which result from illegal alcohol sales to a person who is intoxicated or underage at the time of service. The laws apply in bars, restaurants and clubs, as well as in off-premise locations.

The findings will appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“The erosion of commercial host liability in recent decades is a public health failure that directly contributes to the exorbitant human and economic costs of excessive drinking,” lead author James F. Mosher, JD, of Alcohol Policy Consultations, said in a news release. “Alcohol retailers who operate negligently and engage in illegal serving practices should not receive special protection, denying those who are injured their day in court.”

A study published in 2011 found holding alcohol retailers liable for injuries or damage done by their customers who are intoxicated can reduce alcohol-related occurrences including motor vehicle deaths, homicides and injuries, according to a nationwide task force.


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