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AZ Supreme Court: Limiting bar owner, bartender, liability is constitutional

In a divided decision, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional to shield bar owners and bartenders from lawsuits connected to drunk driving crashes.

The argument before the court delved into whether it was constitutional to limit the liability of bartenders and owners when their patrons drive drunk and cause fatalities or other damages.  

In question was a state constitutional provision, which does not allow lawmakers to limit someone’s right to sue. But a 1980s law raised the threshold for drunk-driving liability, largely shielding bartenders and owners. 

The majority of justices ruled that the law did not contradict the constitution. They said the original provision applied only to legal claims that could be made in 1912, when the Arizona Constitution was adopted. 

Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.