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Should Maryland Bars Be Held Accountable For Over-Serving?

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Maryland alcohol purveyors can't be held liable for overserving under the current law.
Jim Sher: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29335908@N00/5160816786
Maryland alcohol purveyors can't be held liable for overserving under the current law.

Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to be liable in court if they over-serve customers who then cause drunk-driving accidents after leaving the establishment.

In 2008, 10-year-old Jasmine Warr was killed as she rode in the back of her parent's SUV on Interstate 270. Their vehicle was struck by another SUV driven by Micheal Eaton of Virginia. He fled the scene but later turned himself into police. Eaton is currently serving an 8-year jail sentence.

The Warr family wanted to seek damages against the bar where Easton was drinking before the crash. Their lawyer Andy Bederman says state police did an exhaustive investigation.

"At the Dogfish Head Ale House in Damascus, he got their about 5 p.m. He stayed about 5-6 hours," Bederman says. "He ordered 14 beers, two Lemondrops — which I understand are hard liquor — and drank at least one other beer a third party ordered for him. He became belligerent, they cut him off. But at 10 p.m. they resumed serving him and he drank three more beers and a shot of tequila."

Maryland is one of a few states where bars can't be held liable in court. Bederman spoke to the state senate Committee this week urging them to approve a bill that would change that, saying the Warr family's case is a "poster child" for why the measure is needed.

"I get choked up talking about this, sorry," Bederman says. "How many kids have to die for the legislature to do something?"

But the bill is opposed by some very powerful interests, and representatives of the bottling and restaurant industries in Maryland told the same committee the bill would force undue legal and insurance costs on establishments.

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