Dram shop laws are laws in the United States that hold commercial establishments (such as bars, taverns, and liquor stores) liable for serving or selling alcohol to customers who later cause injuries or damages while under the influence of alcohol.

These laws vary from state to state, with some states having no dram shop laws at all, and others having strict liability laws that hold establishments liable for any damages caused by their customers.

Is there a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code?

Yes, there is a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. It is a set of laws and regulations governing the sale, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the state of Texas.

The code is enforced by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which has the authority to issue licenses, permits, and penalties to individuals and businesses that violate the code.

The code also includes Texas’ dram shop laws, which hold commercial establishments liable for serving or selling alcohol to customers who later cause injuries or damages while under the influence of alcohol.

What Is the Dram Shop Law in Texas?

The dram shop act in Texas establishes that a commercial establishment (such as a bar, tavern, or liquor store) can be held liable for serving or selling alcohol to a customer who later causes injuries or damages while under the influence of alcohol.

This means that if an individual becomes visibly intoxicated while at a commercial establishment and is then served more alcohol, the establishment can be held responsible for any damages caused by that individual’s actions while they were under the influence.

However, liability is limited to the person who provided the alcohol and not the establishment owner unless the establishment owner is the person who provided the alcohol.

Additionally, the Texas Dram Shop Act establishes a “safe harbor” provision that limits the liability of a commercial establishment in cases where the individual who caused the damages was not obviously intoxicated at the time they were served.

This means that if the establishment can prove that the individual was not visibly intoxicated or that the establishment made a good-faith effort to determine that the individual was not visibly intoxicated, the establishment may not be held liable for the individual’s actions.

It’s worth noting that Texas is one of the few states that still have this type of law, and the liability is limited, so the damages recovered tend to be small.

What Must Be Shown to Support a Dram Shop Claim in Texas?

In order to support a dram shop claim in Texas, the following must be shown:

  1. The commercial establishment served or sold alcohol to an individual who was visibly intoxicated at the time of service.
  2. The individual who was served or sold the alcohol caused injuries or damages to another person while under the influence of alcohol.
  3. The injuries or damages were a direct result of the individual’s intoxication.

It’s important to note that, as previously mentioned, the Texas Dram Shop Act includes a “safe harbor” provision which limits the liability of a commercial establishment in cases where the individual who caused the damages was not obviously intoxicated at the time they were served.

So, if the establishment can prove that the individual was not visibly intoxicated or that the establishment made a good-faith effort to determine that the individual was not visibly intoxicated, the establishment may not be held liable for the individual’s actions.

Additionally, a dram shop claim can only be brought against the person who provided the alcohol and not the establishment owner unless the establishment owner is the person who provided the alcohol.

It’s also worth noting that Texas has a statute of limitations for dram shop claims which is 2 years from the date of injury or death.

Are There Any Defenses to a Dram Shop Case in Texas?

Yes, there are several defenses that a commercial establishment can use to defend against a dram shop claim in Texas:

  1. The individual was not visibly intoxicated at the time they were served or sold alcohol.
  2. The establishment made a good-faith effort to determine that the individual was not visibly intoxicated before serving or selling them alcohol.
  3. The individual’s actions were not the direct result of their intoxication.
  4. The individual was not served or sold alcohol but obtained it through other means.
  5. The individual was of legal drinking age at the time they were served or sold alcohol.
  6. The establishment was not aware of the individual’s plan to drive or operate heavy machinery or other actions that could cause harm to others.
  7. The individual voluntarily consumed the alcohol, and the establishment did not force the alcohol on the individual.
  8. The individual had a pre-existing condition that contributed to their injuries or damages.

It’s worth noting that these defenses may not apply in all cases, and the specific circumstances of each case will be taken into consideration when determining liability.

Can a Dram Shop Owner be Held Liable for a Driving Accident?

In Texas, a commercial establishment (such as a bar, tavern, or liquor store) can be held liable for serving or selling alcohol to a customer who later causes injuries or damages while under the influence of alcohol.

This includes liability for driving accidents caused by a visibly intoxicated individual who was served or sold alcohol by the establishment.

However, the liability is limited to the person who provided the alcohol and not the establishment owner unless the establishment owner is the person who provided the alcohol.

Additionally, Texas has a “safe harbor” provision which limits the liability of a commercial establishment in cases where the individual who caused the damages was not obviously intoxicated at the time they were served.

It’s important to note that the dram shop laws vary from state to state, and some states don’t have these types of laws.

Additionally, proving that the establishment was liable for the accident can be difficult, as it would require showing that the individual was visibly intoxicated at the time they were served or sold alcohol and that the establishment should have known that the individual would later cause an accident while under the influence.

Dram Shop Underage Child Laws in Texas

In Texas, the dram shop laws also apply to situations where an establishment serves or sells alcohol to an underage child, and the child causes injuries or damages while under the influence of alcohol.

This means that if an establishment serves or sells alcohol to a minor and the minor later causes damages or injuries while under the influence, the establishment can be held liable for those damages.

It’s important to note that Texas has a “zero tolerance” policy for minors and driving under the influence of alcohol, meaning that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive a vehicle with any alcohol in their blood.

Additionally, according to Texas law, it is illegal for an individual under 21 years old to purchase, attempt to purchase, or consume alcohol or present a false ID to purchase or purchase alcohol.

As a business owner, it’s important to be aware of these laws and to implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance. It is important to check ID’s of all customers that appear to be under the age of 30 and to refuse service if a customer is visibly under the age of 21 or presents a false ID.

Furthermore, it’s important to train employees on how to identify fake IDs and how to handle situations where a customer is believed to be underage.

In the event of a violation, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) can impose penalties, such as fines, suspension, or revocation of the establishment’s license, and criminal charges may apply to the employee who served the minor. Therefore, it’s crucial for businesses to take the necessary steps to avoid serving alcohol to minors.

Should I Hire a Lawyer?

If you are a business owner in Texas and have concerns about your potential liability under the state’s dram shop laws, it is important to consult with a Texas business attorney.

An attorney can help you understand the specific laws and regulations in your state and develop strategies to protect your business from potential legal liability. They can also help you navigate the legal process if your business is facing a dram shop claim.

By working with an experienced attorney, you can take proactive steps to minimize your risk and protect your business.