Dram Shop Liability Lawyers

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Dram Shop Liability Attorneys Serving Drunk Driving Accidents Clients in Texas & Nationwide

For centuries, bars, taverns, and saloons have served as gathering places for local communities. Although establishments that serve alcohol are expected to do so responsibly, it is a sad truth that owners, managers, bartenders, and servers sometimes fail in their duty to avoid overserving patrons.

When customers are served too much alcohol, both the intoxicated individual and other members of the public are endangered. The danger most often associated with this situation is drunk driving, but this isn’t the only hazard that can arise when someone leaves a bar or restaurant after one (or more) too many.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a drunk individual, the Houston dram shop liability lawyers at Patrick Daniel Law will investigate to determine if you have a case against the establishment that sold the alcohol. Please call (713) 999-6666 today for a free consultation. Our lawyers serve clients in Houston, all of Texas, and nationwide.

Bar and Restaurant Liability for Overserving Alcohol

What Is Dram Shop Law?

Dram shop liability is a legal concept that establishes the responsibility of an establishment for overserving alcohol to a patron who goes on to harm another. The name originates from businesses in England that used to serve gin by the dram.

Dram shop laws mandate social responsibility for businesses that serve alcohol. They also give the victims of car accidents and other injuries caused by drunk individuals an additional avenue for recovering compensation for the damages they have suffered.

Most states have some form of dram shop law. In Texas, for example, the Alcoholic Beverage Code specifies that a provider of alcohol can be held liable for actions committed by a drunk individual if:

  • “[T]he individual being sold, served, or provided with an alcoholic beverage was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others”
  • The person being served was a minor (under the age of 18)

Dram shop liability in Texas extends both to licensed providers of alcohol such as restaurants and bars, as well as private individuals who provide alcohol in a social setting. This second category of provider is known as social host liability.

In other states, dram shop laws may apply only to businesses and not social hosts, or liability may only arise if the intoxicated individual was under the legal drinking age. A small number of states do not have dram shop laws. In California, individuals and businesses serving alcohol are legally exempt from civil liability for the actions of a drunk customer they serve.

Is Dram Shop Strict Liability?

The Texas dram shop law does not operate on the basis of strict liability. Under a strict liability standard, a defendant is legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and damages regardless of any negligence or wrongdoing.

In Texas, dram shop liability is imposed when the evidence shows that negligence on the part of a server and/or the establishment itself contributed to the patron’s intoxication. Namely, the plaintiff must prove that the establishment (a) served alcohol to a patron who was obviously intoxicated or (b) knowingly served alcohol to a minor, and (c) the individual’s intoxication caused harm to the plaintiff.

When Does the Dram Shop Law Apply?

Bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol may be liable for serious injuries you sustain as a result of:

  • A drunk driving accident
  • A fall caused by an intoxicated person
  • A physical assault committed by an intoxicated person

In addition to personal injury claims, dram shop liability may also apply in cases of wrongful death. If your loved one was killed by a drunk driver or as a result of other injuries caused by an intoxicated person, you may be able to recover compensation from both the individual responsible and the establishment that served the alcohol.

How Can a Dram Shop Lawyer Help Me?

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Dram Shop Case?

Any establishment that sells, serves, or otherwise provides alcohol to an obviously intoxicated individual or a minor may be held responsible for injuries under the Texas dram shop law. This includes:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars, nightclubs, pubs, taverns, etc.
  • Hotels
  • Event centers
  • Sporting and concert venues

Businesses are not the only potential defendants in a dram shop liability claim. Liability may also extend to private individuals who knowingly serve alcohol to minors on premises they own or lease.

Establishing Dram Shop Liability

Determining the responsibility of the establishment for contributing to a patron’s intoxication can be challenging. Timely, thorough investigation is crucial in these cases.

Ultimately, the bar or restaurant may be liable if your lawyer can prove that:

  • The establishment failed to train employees to identify signs of intoxication
  • The establishment failed to put policies in place to prevent overconsumption
  • The patron’s consumption was not monitored
  • Employees did not receive training on how to handle intoxicated customers
  • Employees of the establishment failed to check the ID of an underage customer

Social host liability can be more difficult to prove, as it is almost entirely based upon eyewitness testimony. Again, prompt investigation is key in order to establish the facts of the intoxicated person’s behavior and how much alcohol they were served.

Do Dram Shop Laws Make Servers Liable for Intoxicated Patrons?

Dram shop liability is a complicated issue. Although a server (such as a bartender, waiter or waitress, etc.) may be directly responsible for overserving an intoxicated patron who goes on to cause personal injury to someone else, it is typically the establishment (i.e., the server’s employer) that can be held liable under the dram shop law.

However, the liability of the establishment is not guaranteed. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code § 106.14 includes a “safe harbor provision” that enables employers to dispute liability in a dram shop action if:

  • “the employer requires its employees to attend a commission-approved seller training program;
  • “the employee has actually attended such a training program; and
  • “the employer has not directly or indirectly encouraged the employee to violate such law.”

Employers must present proof that (a) employees are required to attend an approved seller training program and (b) the employee actually did attend the training program. Meanwhile, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to prove that the employer “directly or indirectly encouraged” employees to violate the dram shop law (as determined by the Texas Supreme Court in 20801, Inc. v. Parker).

A Houston dram shop attorney can investigate to determine if the bar, restaurant, or other establishment took the necessary steps to invoke the safe harbor defense. Your lawyer can also determine how negligence on the part of the server and/or owner contributed to your injuries.

What Is the Social Host Law in Texas?

In Texas, social host liability is limited to situations where someone 21 years of age or older knowingly provides alcohol to a minor (an individual under the age of 18) and/or the minor was obviously intoxicated. The social host can be held liable for injuries and damages caused by the intoxication of the minor (see Alcoholic Beverage Code § 2.02).

Several communities in Texas have enacted their own social host ordinances to make it easier for local law enforcement to crack down on underage drinking and enable victims to hold adults accountable for contributing to the intoxication of minors. The following cities in Texas have social host ordinances in place:

  • San Antonio
  • Weslaco
  • Alton
  • Palmview
  • Odessa
  • El Paso

A knowledgeable Houston dram shop lawyer can assess the applicable state and local social host laws to determine whether you have a case after a drunk driving accident or other incident involving an intoxicated minor.

Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys Houston, TX

Signs of Intoxication

Social hosts and the employees of establishments serving alcohol are not trained or equipped to administer the kind of sobriety tests that police officers use to identify drunk drivers. Nor is there a legal expectation for bars, restaurants, and private citizens to employ this kind of testing.

However, it doesn’t take a background in law enforcement to identify the obvious signs that someone is drunk. These signs may include:

  • Slurred or disorganized speech
  • Flushing of the face
  • Excess sweating
  • Bloodshot or glassy eyes
  • Difficulties with hand-eye coordination
  • Poor balance
  • Staggering while walking
  • Boisterous or belligerent behavior

All of these behaviors should tell a reasonable observer that someone has had too much to drink. And yet, the owners, managers, and employees of establishments serving alcohol routinely overlook or ignore these signs of danger.

The Consequences of Intoxication

Our founder and principal attorney, Patrick Daniel, recently wrote an article for Law.com discussing the important social and legal function of dram shop laws. In the article he discusses the more than 80,000 preventable deaths that occur each year due to alcohol-related causes, as well as the $200 billion annual cost of alcohol abuse in the United States.

Read Patrick Daniel’s full dram shop law article.

Intoxicated individuals are responsible for the acts they commit while under the influence. However, businesses should also be held accountable when their service of alcohol results in intoxication that harms another person.

What Do Dram Shop Laws Allow a Person Injured by an Intoxicated Guest to Do?

Dram shop laws allow people to seek justice when they have been injured or lost loved ones due to the recklessness of an intoxicated individual. Rather than being limited to making a claim against the individual directly responsible for personal injury or wrongful death, the dram shop law makes it possible for those who have been harmed to pursue compensation from the establishment that contributed to the accident through the irresponsible sale, service, or provision of alcohol.

Potential damages that may be recovered in a dram shop liability claim include:

  • Current and future expenses for medical care
  • Loss of past and future wages/earning capacity
  • The cost of hiring household services providers and home-based medical attendants
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life

Families of those who lose a relative in a drunk driving accident or other incident can pursue compensation for wrongful death via a dram shop claim as well. Dram shop lawyer Patrick Daniel can review the details of your case, collect evidence on your behalf, and mercilessly pursue recovery of the damages you and your family have suffered.

Establishment Liability for Injuries Caused by Intoxicated Customers

Building Your Dram Shop Liability Claim

Cases in which an establishment may be liable for the injuries you sustain because of an intoxicated customer will begin with an assessment of the individual’s behavior. If the person responsible was drunk, it is crucial to determine who served the alcohol.

Our lawyers will review police reports and interview witnesses to determine where the individual was, how much they had to drink, and their conduct while intoxicated. We may subpoena cell phone records or credit card charges to establish where the defendant in your claim purchased the alcohol.

The investigation will then focus on the actions of the employees at the establishment. Our lawyers will speak with witnesses who saw the defendant being overserved, as well as analyze the policies and procedures of the business when it comes to serving alcohol. We will also examine government records to determine if the establishment has faced charges or citations in the past for overserving customers or serving alcohol to minors.

Dram Shop Liability of Multiple Establishments

An intoxicated individual may have been served at more than one establishment before the incident that caused your injuries. This is frequently the case with “bar hopping,” where patrons move from one tavern to another in rapid succession.

Drinking to excess in multiple locations quickly elevates blood alcohol content. If employees at one or more establishments fail to notice the signs of intoxication, the risk of harm when the customer moves to the next business increases dramatically.

Should you file a dram shop liability claim, the first establishment will likely blame the second establishment for overserving the patron, whereas the second establishment will likely argue that the individual’s drunkenness originated at the first establishment. It is in your best interest to contact an experienced lawyer for assistance with the complex liability of your case.

Common Injuries in Houston Dram Shop Cases

The majority of dram shop claims center on drunk driving accidents. Collisions caused by drunk drivers often involve high speeds, which results in a greater likelihood of serious and catastrophic injuries.

Common injuries suffered by victims in drunk driving accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Facial trauma, including eye injuries, mouth and jaw injuries, and damage to the inner ear
  • Neck and back injuries, including whiplash, disc herniation, spinal cord injury, etc.
  • Amputation injuries
  • Injuries to the extremities, including the hands, wrists, arms, legs, knees, ankles, and feet
  • Chest and abdominal injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Severe lacerations
  • Damage to internal organs

Many of these same injuries can occur in other incidents where dram shop liability may be a factor, such as when a drunk individual attacks someone. A Houston dram shop attorney will review your medical records, speak to your doctors, and consult expert witnesses to establish the severity of your injuries and determine who is at fault.

How Patrick Daniel Law Can Help

The attorneys at Patrick Daniel Law have extensive experience handling a wide variety of accident and injury claims. These range from vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers to serious injuries stemming from the negligence of individuals, businesses, and other parties.

If you suspect that an irresponsible bar, restaurant, or other venue overserved a customer who later hurt you, our lawyers will meticulously investigate the case, strategically identify the liable parties, and mercilessly pursue compensation on your behalf.

We know the strategies that defense attorneys and insurance companies use to try to avoid responsibility in dram shop law claims. Our experienced trial lawyers will gather all of the evidence necessary to overcome these arguments and obtain a favorable result in your case.

Contact Our Houston Dram Shop Lawyers Today

Establishments that serve alcohol and social hosts have an obligation to ensure that patrons are not overserved. If you have been injured or lost a loved one due to the actions of an intoxicated individual, our lawyers will identify all of the liable parties and work aggressively to win the compensation you deserve.

Please call (713) 999-6666 today for a free consultation. Patrick Daniel Law serves clients in Houston, throughout Texas, and nationwide.

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