Texas Dram Shop Laws

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What are Dram Shop Laws?

A “dram shop” is basically any drinking establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed, such as a bar or a tavern. A dram shop law or dram shop act holds the drinking establish liable for injuries resulting from the consumption of alcohol.  For example, if the person drinks at a bar then is injured during a driving accident on the way home.  
Usually in order to be held liable under a dram shop statute, it must be proven that the establishment sold alcohol to a person that was visibly or obviously intoxicated, and that the serving of alcohol was the specific cause of the person’s injuries. Dram shop laws also cover the sale of alcohol to intoxicated minors. 

What is the Dram Shop Law in Texas?

Texas’ Dram Shop Act is contained in its Alcoholic Beverage Code, which holds establishments liable for selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons. The person suing the bar or tavern must prove that they were visibly intoxicated when they were sold the alcoholic beverage.

Minors may also sue business establishes for any injuries they incurred from the sale of alcohol if they were intoxicated at the time of the sale. 

What is the burden of proof for a dram shop claim in Texas?

Most states simply require a showing that the business sold alcohol to an intoxicated person in order to be held liable under a dram shop act. However, recent Texas case law has reinterpreted the amount of liability that businesses may be sued for.
In Texas, licensed alcohol selling establishment may only be held liable for the proportion of responsibility that a jury assigns to it. The driver will be held liable for the proportion of injury that they themselves may have caused by consuming alcohol and then driving.
Specifically, Texas dram shop operators may only be held liable for injuries to its patrons if a jury finds that the shop is more than 50% responsible for the person’s injuries. The percentage of liability is calculated using a variety of factors and procedures.   
Thus, in Texas dram shop liability is only a potential source of recovery for injured plaintiffs, and not a guarantee that the shop will be held entirely liable. Dram shop owners are not automatically liable for injuries by a patron sustained as a result of their serving alcohol.  

Should I hire a Texas lawyer if I have a dram shop claim?

Whether you are the person injured, or are a dram shop operator, it is important that you obtain the advice of an attorney if you are involved in a dram shop claim. In Texas, the court will have to undergo a rigorous analysis of the percentage of liability that should be assigned to each party involved. This may require the expertise of a lawyer who can help determine the percentage of liability for each party. A competent attorney can be of great assistance in such claims.    

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Last Modified: 07-13-2010 02:19 PM PDT

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