Texas Dram Shop Act

Texas’ first codified dram shop legislation went into effect in 1987. A “dram shop” is the term historically used to describe any establishment that serves alcoholic drinks, a dram being a liquid measurement equivalent to an eighth of an ounce. Since that time, Texas liquor regulations have gone through numerous modifications, repeals, and reenactments.

Restaurant / Bar Owner Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents 

Any establishment that sells or serves alcohol under authority of a liquor license may be sued for damages arising from over-serving. In order for a cause of action under the Texas Dram Shop Act to be successful, a plaintiff must prove both of the following elements: (a) The defendant sold, served, or provided alcohol to an individual, and at the time the alcohol was sold, served, or provided to him/her, it was apparent to defendant that he/she was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he/she presented a clear danger to himself and others; and (b) the intoxication of the recipient of the alcoholic beverage was a proximate cause of the damages suffered.

Adults Serving Minors – the standards governing suits against an adult who knowingly serves alcohol to a minor under the age of 18 are even less lenient. Anyone over 21 (other than the minor’s parent or legal guardian) who provides alcohol to a minor or allows a minor to be served alcohol on his or her premises may be held responsible for damages arising out of the minor’s intoxication, whether or not obvious intoxication was present at the time of serving. It should be noted that the Texas Dram Shop Act in no way limits the ability of an injured party to also sue the intoxicated person who caused them harm.

First-Party Cases vs. Third-Party Cases

First-Party Dram Shop Cases — A “first party” dram shop case exists when the injured plaintiff is also the person who was sold the alcoholic drinks. Third-Party Dram Shop Cases — A “third party” dram shop case exists when the injured person is someone other than the person sold the alcoholic drinks. So, if you are hit by a drunk driver, and the driver got drunk at a bar, you would potentially have a third-party dram shop case against the bar.

In First-Party dram shop cases, why blame the restaurant or bar? What about personal responsibility?

Legislative Purpose of the Dram Shop Act. — Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) section 1.03 provides that the express public policy of the Alcoholic Beverage Code is “the protection of the welfare, health, peace, temperance, and safety of the people of the state of Texas.” Indeed, the following arguments (in support of First-Party dram shop claims) are in keeping with said public policy considerations: 1) If a tavern or other establishment can be held liable for the injuries or death resulting from an accident caused by the drunk driving of an over-served patron, the owners and operators of the establishment will likely be more diligent in ensuring that individuals are not served alcohol after they have become visibly intoxicated. 2) The tavern or establishment serving alcohol is in the best position to prevent a person from driving while under the influence and will be more likely to do so if there are significant potential financial consequences for failing to act. 3) To those that disagree with Texas liquor liability laws based on the premise that an alcohol-serving establishment should not be held responsible for an adult’s personal decision to continue consuming alcohol past the point of intoxication, it is important to remember that a drunk individual is actually NOT in a state of mind to be making decisions, especially one that can and does involve the safety of the general public. How many times have you seen someone confronted about having drank too much admit to such and readily give up their keys? As such, it makes sense that the responsibility for public safety fall squarely onto the shoulders of the entity with the ability to decide whether or not to continue serving alcohol to an individual after that individual has become a danger to themselves or the general public at large.

What does MADD say about Texas’ Dram Shop laws?

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), dram shop laws: 1) Reduce alcohol-related crashes 2) Increase publicity of the impacts of over-serving 3) Decrease excessive and illegal consumption 4) Do not decrease personal responsibility- “Creating a cause of action against an over-serving establishment does not mean that the individual is not also held responsible. Rather, punitive damages for both drinking drivers and serving establishments serve similar purposes- to show them the penalties that come with their actions and to cause them to rethink their practices.” If you have been injured in an accident caused by an intoxicated individual, contact the Mazzola Law Firm to explore the remedies that may be available to you under the Texas Dram Shop Act.

Compensation and Justice in Dram Shop Cases

As the close family member of someone that has been injured or killed as a result of a violation of Texas’ Dram Shop laws, you have the right to claim compensation for economic and non-economic losses. Potential damages can include the lost future stream of income your loved one will not be able to earn, medical and funeral costs, compensation for loss of companionship and other non-economic losses. While money alone can never replace what you have lost, in our legal system it is the only means of obtaining justice in such a situation.

The Mazzola Law Firm, PLLC will begin the legal process immediately. While our firm builds your case, you can focus on your recovery. Our goal will be to obtain the best settlement or compensation award possible, and justice for your loved one.

Experienced Beaumont Wrongful Death Lawyer

The Mazzola Law Firm has successfully represented clients in a number of cases involving the Texas Dram Shop Act. In your case, we will direct a comprehensive effort to document the negligence of the party that caused the accident and the losses you have suffered. Oftentimes this includes a select group of outside experts including an accident investigator, an economist, and other specialized professionals.

Brian N. Mazzola and his team will work effectively and systematically throughout all phases of your case. You will have confidence knowing that we are doing everything we can to succeed for you.

Contact an experienced Dram Shop Attorney

For a free consultation about a Dram Shop case, contact the Mazzola Law Firm.

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