Understanding Texas Dram Shop Cases: An In-Depth Exploration

by | May 24, 2024 | Assault, Dram Shop Law, DUI/DWI, Personal Injury, Vehicle Accident

Texas dram shop cases are a crucial aspect of the state’s legal landscape, particularly concerning issues of alcohol-related accidents and liability. Named after historical establishments where alcohol was sold by the dram (a small unit of liquid), these laws hold bars, restaurants, and other alcohol-serving establishments accountable for the actions of intoxicated patrons.

In our guide below, the personal injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia explore how dram shop cases work, the legal principles involved, and their impact on public safety and accountability.

The Foundation of Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop laws are designed to curb irresponsible alcohol service and mitigate the consequences of over-serving patrons. In Texas, these laws are codified under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Section 2.02. This code provides a legal framework for holding alcohol-serving establishments liable. The primary goal is to reduce drunk driving incidents, prevent alcohol-related accidents, and ensure that businesses exercise due diligence in serving alcohol.

What are Some Examples of Dram Shop Cases?

Dram shop cases vary widely, illustrating the different circumstances under which alcohol-serving establishments can be held liable for the actions of their intoxicated patrons. Here are a few notable examples that highlight the application and impact of dram shop laws:

Case of Sarah Harris (2020)

Sarah Harris was served multiple drinks at a Texas nightclub despite displaying clear signs of intoxication. She was involved in a single-car accident shortly after leaving the nightclub, suffering severe injuries. Harris filed a lawsuit against the nightclub, claiming that their negligence in over-serving her alcohol directly led to her injuries. The court ruled in her favor, holding the nightclub responsible under the Texas Dram Shop Act and awarding Harris compensation for her injuries and medical expenses.

Case of Javier Gonzalez (2018)

Javier Gonzalez was served alcohol at a local bar despite being visibly intoxicated. After leaving the bar, he assaulted another individual, causing severe injuries. The victim filed a dram shop lawsuit against the bar, arguing that the establishment’s negligence in serving Gonzalez contributed to the assault. The court found the bar liable, awarding damages to the victim. This also reinforced the importance of responsible alcohol service.

Case of Lindsay Johnson (2015)

Lindsay Johnson was served alcohol at a Texas restaurant even though she was visibly intoxicated. She subsequently drove and caused a fatal accident. The family of the deceased victim filed a lawsuit against the restaurant. The lawsuit claimed that the staff’s decision to continue serving Johnson contributed directly to the fatal incident. The case resulted in a substantial settlement for the victim’s family, highlighting the severe consequences of failing to follow dram shop laws.

Smith v. The Texan Bar (2012)

In this case, a patron named Smith was served multiple drinks at The Texan Bar despite showing clear signs of intoxication. After leaving the bar, Smith caused a multi-car accident, resulting in significant injuries to several individuals. The injured parties sued The Texan Bar, claiming that the bar’s staff negligently over-served Smith. The court found in favor of the plaintiffs, holding the bar liable for the damages due to its failure to adhere to responsible alcohol service practices.

F.F.P. Operating Partners, L.P. v. Duenez (2007)

This Texas Supreme Court case is a landmark in the interpretation of the state’s dram shop laws. In this case, an intoxicated driver, who had been served alcohol at an establishment operated by F.F.P. Operating Partners, caused a serious car accident. The victim’s family filed a lawsuit against the establishment. The court ruled that the establishment could be held liable under the Texas Dram Shop Act because the driver was obviously intoxicated at the time of service, and this intoxication was a proximate cause of the accident.

El Chico Corp. v. Poole (1987)

This case is one of the earlier examples that shaped the landscape of dram shop liability in Texas. An intoxicated driver who had been served alcohol at an El Chico restaurant caused a car accident, injuring Poole and others. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that El Chico Corp. could be held liable under the dram shop law, setting a precedent for future cases by emphasizing the responsibility of establishments to prevent obviously intoxicated individuals from causing harm.

These examples illustrate the diverse scenarios in which dram shop liability can arise. They highlight the legal and ethical responsibilities of alcohol-serving establishments to ensure the safety of their patrons and the broader public. Dram shop cases underscore the importance of responsible alcohol service and the potential legal repercussions of failing to adhere to these standards.

How Dram Shop Cases Work

In order to be successful with a dram shop case in Texas, victims must be able to prove their claims. This is best achieved with the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer. Below, we explore how dram shop cases work, and the relevant legal principles.

Establishing Liability in Texas Dram Shop Cases

To succeed in a dram shop case in Texas, the plaintiff must prove several key elements:

  • Service of Alcohol: The establishment served, sold, or provided alcohol to the patron.
  • Obvious Intoxication: The patron was obviously intoxicated to the extent that they presented a clear danger to themselves and others.
  • Proximate Cause: The intoxication was a proximate cause of the damages suffered by the plaintiff.

Obvious Intoxication

One of the most challenging aspects of a dram shop case is proving that the patron was “obviously intoxicated.” This requires evidence that a reasonable person would have recognized the signs of intoxication. Such signs may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Unsteady gait
  • Impaired motor skills

Testimonies from witnesses, security footage, and expert analysis can be critical in establishing this element.

The Role of Comparative Negligence

Texas follows the doctrine of comparative negligence, which can significantly influence the outcome of dram shop cases. Under this principle, if the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for their own injuries, their compensation may be reduced proportionately. For instance, if a jury finds that the plaintiff was 30% responsible for the accident, their damages award will be reduced by 30%.

Statute of Limitations

In Texas, dram shop claims are subject to a statute of limitations. This typically requires plaintiffs to file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the incident. This timeframe underscores the importance of timely legal action to preserve evidence and witness testimonies.

The Impact on Businesses

Dram shop laws place significant responsibility on businesses to implement stringent alcohol service policies. Establishments often adopt measures such as:

  • Employee Training: Ensuring staff are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and know how to handle intoxicated patrons.
  • Serving Practices: Implementing policies like refusing service to visibly intoxicated individuals and promoting alternative transportation options.
  • Record Keeping: Maintaining detailed records of alcohol service and incidents involving intoxicated patrons to defend against potential claims.

Unfortunately, despite these measures, numerous accidents, injuries, and deaths occur each year in Texas due to over-served patrons.

Public Safety and Social Responsibility

Beyond the legal implications, dram shop laws serve a broader societal purpose. By holding establishments accountable, these laws promote safer drinking environments and encourage responsible behavior among patrons. They also provide a legal recourse for victims of alcohol-related incidents. This helps to address the broader public health issue of drunk driving and its devastating consequences.

Texas dram shop cases also underscore the importance of responsible alcohol service and the potential legal repercussions of failing to adhere to established standards. For victims, these laws offer a pathway to justice and compensation, while for businesses, they highlight the necessity of rigorous training and vigilant practices.

Legal Defenses in Dram Shop Cases

Establishments facing dram shop claims can employ several defenses:

  • Proving Non-Intoxication: Demonstrating that the patron was not obviously intoxicated at the time of service.
  • Intervening Causes: Arguing that other factors, unrelated to the patron’s intoxication, were the primary cause of the accident.
  • Safe Harbor Defense: Texas law provides a “safe harbor” defense for establishments that can prove they meet specific training requirements and have adhered to responsible alcohol service protocols.

It is important for victims pursuing a dram shop claim to be aware of the potential defenses that an establishment may take. These defenses could challenge the success of a dram shop claim.

Get Help with Your Potential Dram Shop Case

If you or a loved one has been affected by the irresponsible actions of an alcohol-serving establishment, you don’t have to face the aftermath alone. At Kherkher Garcia, we specialize in handling dram shop cases with compassion, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of justice. Our experienced legal team understands the complexities of Texas dram shop laws and is committed to holding negligent establishments accountable for their actions.

Why Choose Kherkher Garcia?

  • Proven Track Record: Our firm has successfully represented numerous clients in dram shop cases, securing substantial settlements and verdicts that provide the compensation needed for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.
  • Expert Knowledge: With a deep understanding of the intricacies of dram shop laws, our attorneys are well-equipped to navigate the legal system and build a robust case on your behalf.
  • Personalized Approach: We recognize that every case is unique. Our team takes the time to understand your specific situation and tailor our strategies to meet your needs.
  • No Upfront Fees: We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay nothing unless we win your case. This ensures that you have access to top-tier legal representation without financial strain.

Don’t let negligent establishments escape accountability. Your voice matters, and your case can make a difference in getting the help you need and promoting safer practices across the industry. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia today for a free consultation and let us help you seek the justice and compensation you deserve.

Call us at 713-333-1030, or submit our online contact form to get started.

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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