The Texas Dram Shop Act holds bars and restaurants financially responsible for accidents caused by the overservice of alcohol. Here’s how it works:
Prohibition died long ago, but that doesn’t make alcohol any less dangerous. For years, there was no law or “cause of action” on which victims injured in alcohol-related accidents could sue a bar or restaurant for providing too much alcohol. In a landmark decision entitled El Chico v. Poole, the Texas Supreme Court changed that in the late 1980’s by creating a cause of action for those hurt in these accidents.
The Texas Legislature responded, superseding El Chico v. Poole by passing a statute commonly called the “Dram Shop Act” soon thereafter. For a full explanation of the basic of how the ins-and-outs of the law, be sure to click over to our Comprehensive Summary of Dram Shop Laws.
The relevant portions of the statute read:
Sec. 2.02. CAUSES OF ACTION. (. . .) (b) Providing, selling, or serving an alcoholic beverage may be made the basis of a statutory cause of action under this chapter of this code upon proof that:
(1) at the time the provision occurred it was apparent to the provider that the 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; and
(2) the intoxication of the recipient of the alcoholic beverage was a proximate cause
of the damages suffered.
. . .
If you’re confused about what that means, don’t worry. Most practicing lawyers don’t really understand it, either. In plain English, the bottom line in understanding Dram Shop cases is this: when the 1) bar or restaurant that provided at least its last drink to 2) the person who caused your accident, 3) the drinker must have already consumed so much alcohol that any reasonable person would have been able to tell they were intoxicated. Then, and only then, can the establishment can be held financially liable for losses directly attributable to the accident.
How each important part of the Dram Shop Act gets proven
We flesh out how these cases are won and lost in other pages, but just so you get a grasp at what the most relevant language of the statute actually means, here are some examples of how this plays out in the real world:
1. Sold, served, or provided: Your attorney must prove that the establishment in the business of selling alcohol actually supplied the person alcohol who caused the accident. This is trickier than you might think. First, the drunk driver (or drunk pedestrian) who caused the accident is often deceased. Further, if the drinker paid in cash or had someone else buy the alcohol, then it may be difficult to even find the bar, much less be able to prove the intoxicated person got alcohol from there.
- If there are witnesses to the intoxicated person’s drinking, receipts, security cam footage, or the drinker is willing and able to testify, that could suffice.
2. Obviously intoxicated . . . that he presented a clear danger: It may seem like semantics, but “obvious” intoxication is not the same thing as “visible” intoxication. Obvious means that the employees of the bar either knew or should have known that the amount of alcohol they served the person, OR their behavior put them on notice that they were a danger to themselves or other. Visible means you could physically see how drunk a person was.
- Witness statements, receipts, and most often, blood-alcohol results combined with expert witness testimony about the effects of alcohol can prove obvious intoxication.
3. Proximate cause: Your lawyer must be able to “connect the dots” between what the bartenders or waiters did and what you’ve suffered. For example, assuming the bartenders at ABC Bar served the guy who hit you way too much alcohol, but 4 hours passed and the intoxicated guy made it to several other bars where he drank even more, it’ll be a challenge to show how ABC Bar is really the reason you got hurt.
- Showing a close temporal proximity between the last drink and the accident, combined with medical evidence that you weren’t hurt prior to the accident but are now in a way consistent with the accident should work.
At this point in your accident, you might not even know where the person who caused the accident was drinking. That’s OK. We’re here to launch an investigation and find out where. But if you lost a loved one in an alcohol-related accident, why not get the experienced Dram Shop attorneys at Grossman Law Offices on your side? Call today.