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Am J Prev Med. 2013 Sep;45(3):347-53. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.04.013.

Commercial host (dram shop) liability: current status and trends.

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Alcohol Policy Consultations, Felton, California 95018, USA.


Commercial host liability (CHL, also called dram shop liability) holds alcohol retailers liable for alcohol-attributable harm caused by serving alcohol, illegally, to a patron who is already intoxicated (adult liability) or underage (underage liability). The Community Preventive Services Task Force, based on a systematic research literature review, concluded that CHL is an effective strategy for reducing excessive alcohol consumption. The current article describes the key components of CHL, its grounding in American jurisprudence, its adoption in the 50 states, and changes since 1989, when a similar assessment of these policies was conducted. The current paper focuses on three legislatively enacted restrictions: (1) increased evidentiary requirements; (2) limitations on damage awards; and (3) limitations on who may be sued. Data were collected in 2011 and analyzed in 2012 and 2013. There has been substantial erosion of CHL during the past 2 decades. Fewer states recognized CHL in 2011 than in 1989, and more statutory restrictions were imposed during the study period among states that did recognize CHL; states are more likely to recognize underage than adult liability; and six states recognized a Responsible Beverage Services Practices affirmative defense in both 1989 and 2011. Implications of these findings for public health practitioners are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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