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Bar and Tavern (Dram Shop)

Rights of Victims in Alcohol-Related Accidents in Texas
Rights of Victims in Alcohol-Related Accidents in Texas 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

What are dram shop and social host liability laws?

In the United States, if you are injured as a result of another individual’s intoxication, you can file a personal injury lawsuit claim against that person. Many people are unaware, however, that (in some situations) you can also sue the establishment (e.g. bar or restaurant) that served alcohol to the person the person who harmed you if it was clear that he or she was already intoxicated or if he or she was a minor. The laws governing the latter are known as “dram shop” laws since “dram” was once  a common term for a portion of whiskey.

There are also instances in which you can sue the host of a party who knowingly served alcohol to a minor or to an obviously intoxicated person who then harmed you. These laws vary state to state; this article deals with the pertinent laws in Texas. If you have been injured by a drunk driver in Texas, you should investigate your legal options with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

Texas Dram Shop Law

Establishments that sell alcohol in Texas may be held liable for an injury caused by an intoxicated patron, but only under the following conditions: [1] the alcohol was sold or given to a minor under the age of 18 or [2] the customer was obviously intoxicated when the alcohol was sold or given, posing “a clear danger” to the safety of self and others. In order for the case to proceed, it must also be evident that the intoxication was the “foreseeable cause” of the injuries incurred.

It is clear, even to a casual observer, that there are many subjective terms in the wording of these laws which make proving a case very difficult. “Obviously intoxicated,” “clear danger,” and “foreseeable cause,” are all phrases open to interpretation.

Signs of Intoxication

Generally, signs of intoxication are considered to be slurred speech, an unsteady gait, clumsy or uncoordinated movements, red eyes, and breath smelling heavily of alcohol. Such signs, however, can be indicators of other physical conditions — a fact that the defending attorney is likely to use. This is where having an experienced lawyer on your side is essential in proving your case. If the consumer of alcohol is underage, however, all bets are off, and the plaintiff is at a clear advantage. In the case involves serving alcohol to a minor, the dram shop law can be implemented even if the customer does not appear to be intoxicated.

Social Host Liability

Beyond the dram shop law, Texas, like many other states, has a social host liability law which allows a person who has been injured to seek damages from any host over the age of 21 who provides alcohol to a minor who is under the age of 18. There are certain criteria, however, that must be met for this law to be enforceable: [1] the adult in question must not be the parent, guardian, spouse, or legal custodian of the minor and [2] that adult must have knowingly served or provided the alcoholic beverage to the minor or allowed the minor to drink on his or her property.

Damage Limits in Dram Shop or Social Host Claims

In Texas, a dram shop or social host liability claim is a civil lawsuit. The plaintiff (the injured party) can file the case against the establishment or individual (the defendant) who provided the alcohol to the intoxicated person. In cases won by the plaintiff, the defendant is found legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. Liability means that the defendant owes damages to compensate the plaintiff for whichever of the following apply:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages, including lost future earning capacity
  • Lost or damaged property
  • Pain and suffering

Time Limits in Dram Shop or Social Host Claims

In Texas, the time limit for all injury claims, including dram shop and social host liability claims, is 2 years from the date the injury occurred.

Texas Dram Shop Lawsuit after Drunk Stripper Kills Cop
Texas Dram Shop Lawsuit after Drunk Stripper Kills Cop 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

Q: Is a bar or tavern owner liable for a drunk driving death caused by one who drank there then drove?

He died while on duty when his patrol car was struck “nearly head on by a drunken driver” who had just left her shift as a stripper. The hero police officer reportedly “took the hit for another citizen who was coming behind him.”  He is survived by his reported common-law wife and their young son, who have commenced a wrongful death lawsuit against the stripper and the strip club owners. She is also seeking death benefits from worker’s compensation.

Texas dram shop lawsuits are cases against bar and tavern owners seeking to hold them liable for car accidents caused by negligent and drunk drivers who drank at their establishments and then injured or killed someone after leaving. Under dram shop laws, the establishment shares in the liability for the injuries or death caused by the drunk driver they served. The stripper was convicted of “intoxication manslaughter of a peace officer” and was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff has to prove a person’s death was caused by another person’s negligence and that surviving family members are suffering financially as a result of the victim’s death.

Wrongful death cases are complex and damages are determined on a case-by-case basis according to the decedent’s circumstances at the time of death. Compensatory damages may include the following:

  • loss of support
  • loss of services
  • loss of prospective inheritance
  • medical and funeral expenses
  • and even punitive damages in some cases.

In the case at hand, the police officer’s surviving common-law wife is reportedly facing a third legal battle to yet again prove her entitlement to receive death benefits from the police officers’ Worker’s Compensation fund after findings in her favor at an initial hearing and on appeal.

If you have questions regarding the tragic or unexpected loss of a loved one, whether through a drunk driving accident or another accident, the skilled attorneys at Chandler, Mathis, and Zivley can help you get the compensation to which you are entitled. While we can’t bring your loved one back, you shouldn’t have to suffer financial losses as well. Contact us today for a consultation.

From our offices in Lufkin and Houston, we’ve been serving Texans for over 40 years throughout the Lone Star State as well as those people injured while visiting Texas.


Bar Owner Liability: Dram Shop Law Basics in Texas
Bar Owner Liability: Dram Shop Law Basics in Texas 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

Liability in a drunk driving accident may go beyond the driver him or herself. Legal responsibility may extend to those who provided the driver with alcohol in some situations. This is important because some insurance companies will not pay for claims when their insured was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In those situations, the driver may not be able to personally pay for all of your losses associated with the accident.

Texas, like all other states, will hold a bar or other drinking establishment legally responsible for a drunk driving accident if certain conditions are met. This type of liability is based on “dram shop” laws, and an attorney experienced in dram shop claims can be an invaluable resource after a drunk driving accident. Texas also goes one step further than many states and provides liability for those who served alcohol in social settings as well.

What is a Dram Shop Claim?

You can often bring a dram shop claim against a bar, tavern, restaurant, or another similar establishment that sells alcohol. In these claims, the establishment had a patron that they served alcohol, and that patron ended up getting drunk and was involved in an accident. The same applies to those who provided alcohol in a social setting as well.

The rule itself is relatively straightforward. Dram shop laws provide victims with a right to sue an establishment that serves alcohol when a few criteria are met:

  1. The patron was provided alcohol by the establishment;

  2. The patron caused the accident; and

  3. The patron was already dangerously or obviously drunk, but the bar or restaurant continued to serve the patron regardless.

Dram shop laws apply to any establishment that is licensed to sell alcohol in the state of Texas, including liquor stores.

First Party Dram Shop Cases

While most dram shop cases involve three parties—the establishment, the patron, and the other victim—there are cases when only two parties are involved. The intoxicated driver could sue the facility for overserving them if they were in an accident. Texas is one of just a few states that permits this type of claim. These cases are known as “first party” dram shop claims.

First-party dram shop claims can arise in any type of accident. However, they are most common in situations where the driver does not hit another vehicle or person, but an inanimate object. These objects may include things like telephone poles or trees.

Third Party Dram Shop Cases

In third-party dram shop cases, the injured person was not the cause of their injury (as they are in first-party cases). The injured third party is often in another vehicle, but that is not required. Even passengers can bring a third-party dram shop case when their driver was overserved. These cases are far more common and are often easier to prove.

Asserting Your Dram Shop Claim

Because dram shop claims are so unique, they are tricky to present to a judge or jury. They can also be challenging because of the involvement (or lack of involvement) of insurance companies. If you think you may have a dram shop claim, speak with a member of our team today. We can help walk you through your legal options.

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