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Georgia not alone in limiting commercial host liability

A new study reports that many U.S. states, including Georgia, have enacted laws to shield retailers from commercial host liability. As premises liability holds property owners responsible for damages suffered on dangerous property, commercial host liability holds alcohol retailers liable for damages suffered because the retailer sold alcohol illegally. Instances of illegal alcohol sales include selling to minors or to patrons who are already intoxicated.

Commercial host liability, also called dram shop liability, has been gradually softened by many states through a limit on liability awards, the report claims. Also, some retailers are being protected from liability by new legislation. This decline in legal liability comes even after an expert panel, appointed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that commercial host liability reduced a number of harms from excess alcohol consumption in the states that allow it. Among these benefits was an average 6.4 percent drop in deaths from alcohol-related car accidents.

The report was published by the Alcohol Policy Consultations and the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It shows that commercial host liability is on the decrease across the country. The number of states holding retailers responsible with dram shop laws for serving already-intoxicated adults dropped from 25 to 21 between 1989 and 2011.

Georgia may be among those states limiting retailer liability, but no business should assume it will not be held responsible for premises liability from dangerous property. An attorney experienced in defending shopping centers, apartment complexes and grocery stores in court may be helpful. Such a lawyer may be able to help a property owner defeat accusations of hazardous conditions or unsafe premises.

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, "Commercial Host Liability," Aug. 20, 2013

Source: Insurance Journal, "States Weakening Commercial Host Liability Laws to Protect Retailers", August 19, 2013

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