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 holds a drinking establish liable for injuries resulting from the over consumption of alcohol. For example, if the person drinks at a bar, is visibly intoxicated to the bar’s employees and patrons, and then is injured during a driving accident on the way home, the bar may be liable.
Generally, in order to be held liable under a dram shop statute, it must be proven that the establishment continued to serve alcohol to a person that was visibly or obviously intoxicated, and that serving the alcohol was the specific cause of the person’s injuries. Some dram shop laws cover the sale of alcohol to intoxicated minors.
Texas’ dram shop act is contained in the Alcoholic Beverage Code, and holds establishments liable for selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons. The person suing the bar must prove that they were obviously intoxicated to the extent they were a danger to themselves or others when they were sold alcohol. The Texas dram shop law also provides that minors may sue business establishments for any injuries they incurred from the sale of alcohol if they were intoxicated at the time of the sale.
Most states simply require a showing that the business sold alcohol to an intoxicated person in order to be held strictly liable under a dram shop act. Strict liability means the bar’s will be absolutely liable for any injuries. 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.
Effectively, in Texas, a licensed alcohol selling establishment may only be held liable for the proportion of responsibility that a jury assigns to it. Specifically, if a jury finds the dram shop will only be held liable if it is determined that the shop was more than 50% responsible for the person’s injuries. Thus, the driver will be held liable for the proportion of injury that they may have caused by choosing to consume alcohol and then drive.
Whether you are the person injured, or are a dram shop operator, it is important that you obtain the advice of an attorney. 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 requiring hiring experts. A local business attorney can be of great assistance in such claims, and help ensure liability falls where it should.