By Andrew Starke

Liquor licensees have hailed two High Court decisions as a victory for common sense as the country’s highest court overturned previous rulings that held pubs and clubs responsible for its patrons’ actions.

In two separate judgements handed down yesterday, the court ruled on an incident where a Tasmanian publican handed motorcycle keys back to a drunken patron who subsequently died on the ride home and a shooting incident at a west Sydney nightclub.

The specifics of each case are covered in a separate news piece on today’s TheShout.

In both cases the High Court’s decision represents a significant shift towards personal responsibility when negligence occurs or, as the judgement relating to the motor accident in Tasmania put it: “It is a matter of personal decision and individual responsibility how each particular drinker deals with … difficulties and dangers.”

The court also found that: “The reason is that outside exceptional cases, which this case is not, persons in the position of the Proprietor and the Licensee, while bound by important statutory duties in relation to the service of alcohol and the conduct of the premises in which it is served, owe no general duty of care at common law to customers which requires them to monitor and minimise the service of alcohol or to protect customers from the consequences of the alcohol they choose to consume.”

While welcoming the ruling, Australian Hotels Association (AHA) CEO, Bill Healy, said the news did nothing to diminish the sadness and distress affecting all those involved in the tragic event.

“However, it further underlines the message that the AHA and many other stakeholders continue to push that Australians should never drink and drive,” he said.

Healy added that the High Court ruling reinforces the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own actions.

“The High Court has reaffirmed previous decisions in this area, however it will not dissuade hotels from continuing to work diligently to meet their liquor licensing obligations, including responsible service of alcohol,” he said.

“The hotel industry is committed to working with governments and the broader community to ensure Australians do not harm themselves as a result of having a drink.

“As far as the judgment about an incident at a function centre in south-western Sydney in 2003 is concerned, the AHA will examine the ruling in greater detail before making any public comment on it.”

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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