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How Does the Amount of Alcohol Consumed Impact a Dram Shop Case?

  • Last Updated: March 3rd, 2023
  • By: Mike Grossman
  • Dram Shop

How the amount of alcohol consumed can be used as evidence in a Texas dram shop case:

Texas law holds alcohol providers liable for intoxication related injuries, provided that the bar or restaurant who served the alcohol broke certain rules. This is known as Texas dram shop law. In order for victims of an alcohol-related injury (or families of the deceased) to have any chance of holding a licensed vendor accountable, they must prove that the bar or restaurant sold, served, or provided alcohol to someone who was obviously intoxicated.

Since we cannot go back in time and observe the person who was drinking (except in the form of security footage,) we must piece the story together---and no piece of evidence is more helpful than credible proof of the amount of alcohol served. By knowing how many drinks were served to someone before an alcohol-related accident, we can deduce how obvious their intoxication would most likely have been at the time of service, and thereby prove the bar violated the law.

In this article, one of Dallas' most experienced dram shop lawyers, Michael Grossman looks at how the amount of alcohol consumed factors into a Texas dram shop case.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • How do you prove the amount of alcohol consumed in a dram shop case?
  • How can you prove the other driver was drunk in my Texas dram shop case?
  • Will a bar be honest about how much the drunk driver had to drink?

Proving obvious intoxication through math and science.

In every dram shop case we've ever had (and that's hundreds, by the way) we've never had bar employees come right out and admit to us that they served a patron who was already intoxicated. In fact, they usually "remember" the person they served as being clear-eyed, well-spoken, and stable on their feet! But their "memories" can be proven false by the science of intoxication. At a certain point, everyone is intoxicated.

To use a random example, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, a 160 pound male who consumes seven beverages in 1 hour will reach a .20 blood-alcohol content (two and a half times the legal limit). If we can show that a bar provided that amount of alcohol to the person who caused the accident, then it doesn't really matter what the bar's employees or lawyers try to argue, because they obviously disregarded the rules and should be held accountable. In other words, even if they're willing to lie and say that the drinker they over-served appeared to be fine, we can use medical science to show that they are probably lying.

How we prove the amount of alcohol consumed

Let's say we file a dram shop lawsuit on your behalf against the Chili's where the drunk driver who later hit you was consuming alcohol mere minutes before. In that suit, we demanded that, among other things, Chili's produce copies of any of the driver's receipts for drinks from that night. Lo and behold, the receipt we receive shows that the 160-pound driver purchased 7 drinks in an hour. You don't have to be a trained toxicologist to know that someone who was served that much alcohol in such a short period of time would have been utterly intoxicated by the time he closed out his tab.

But sometimes that's not enough. We can't tell you how many cases we've had where bar employees claim that the driver they over-served as was buying drinks for other people as well, which, they claim makes the number of drinks shown on the receipt unreliable. If true, then obviously that changes the game entirely. A teetotaler who takes his office staff out for celebratory drinks, buys a drink for each of his 10 staffers, is not remotely intoxicated, even though his bar tab may look very suspicious.

This is why we don't rely solely on receipts. Beyond the receipt, we can prove that the person who hit you did consume the staggering amount of alcohol by a combination of the following:

  • Surveillance footage. Many bars have security cameras up in case of bar fights, robberies, and to make sure their staff isn't stealing. That footage can also show the driver consuming alcohol, and even what kinds.
  • Witness testimony. If the driver's friends or coworkers were present at the bar, we'll get their side of the story. They can likely tell us, to a reasonably accurate degree, how much the intoxicated person was drinking.
  • Blood alcohol levels. In serious car accidents, or when the driver needed medical attention, there will be a blood draw. If the driver had a BAC of .20 right after the accident, that indicates he was drinking, and how much. Even if the driver has a much lower BAC at the time of the accident, it is still possible to reasonably infer a much higher BAC when the driver was served. This is because the human body metabolizes alcohol like clockwork. With the exception of people with incredibly rare conditions that affect this mechanism, it doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman, an alcoholic or a teetotaler, the human body metabolizes one drink per hour. This means that, for example, if the drunk driver's BAC was .10 three hours at the time of an accident, three hours after they were served their last drink, that means their BAC was .145 after they consumed their last drink, or almost twice the legal limit. It would be almost impossible for them not to be showing obvious signs of intoxication in that situation.


Lastly, sometimes the best source is the driver who caused the accident. Unless there's a criminal trial pending, which would allow them to invoke their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, they can be forced to testify in your dram shop case. We've had cases where the driver flat-out admitted that he was drinking at X establishment, drinking Y types of beverages, and remembers consuming Z number of drinks.

It takes years to learn how to prove up how much alcohol was provided.

We've been litigating these cases for 25 years, and we've learned how to cut through the noise and prove your case. Call us today at (855) 326-0000. We can help you find out what truly happened, and if there's a bar responsible for your accident, we'll hold them accountable.

Other articles about Texas dram shop cases that may be helpful:

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