More states relaxing dram shop laws to protect retailers

On behalf of Mike Clancy

Dram shop laws are a way to hold establishments that serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons responsible when drunk drivers cause accidents and harm people. However, a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that a number of states have created additional limits to liability in order to protect retailers from large judgments stemming from commercial host liability cases.

The study found that between 1989 and 2011, the number of states that recognized liability for serving drunk patrons without restrictions declined (from 25 to 21). At the same time, the number of states that recognized this type of liability, with major restrictions (such as award caps) increased.

The larger finding of the study was that states were increasingly tolerant of retailers that followed Responsible Beverage Services (RBS) best practices. Essentially, retailers could avoid liability if they followed specific guidelines regarding identification checks, trained workers in recognizing intoxication, and avoiding marketing plans that encouraged intoxication.

While these practices are good guidelines to follow, some establishments still do not follow them, and allow patrons to leave their places of business in a much more dangerous state than when they came in. Nevertheless, researchers believe that the preventative power of dram shop laws are being eroded when liability limits are imposed. Essentially, injured parties are denied their just due when restrictions are imposed on their right to receive compensation.

Fortunately, in Illinois, the effect and requirements of dram shop laws has not changed. If you have questions about commercial host liability claims, an experienced personal injury attorney can help.

Source:, States weakening commercial host liability laws to protect retailers, August 19, 2013

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More states relaxing dram shop laws to protect retailers