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Can Restaurants Be Sued for Excessive Alcohol Service Under Texas Law?

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

Suing Restaurants Under The Texas Dram Shop Act

Any time that someone is injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, most people already know that they will likely be able to hold the drunk driver liable for their injuries. However, if the drunk driver was being served at a restaurant that serves alcohol, then you might be able to bring a claim against them as well.

The Texas Legislature, in an effort to combat drunk driving and encourage responsible alcohol service, passed the Texas Dram Shop Act in 1987, which permitted alcohol providers, including restaurants to be held liable for over-serving obviously intoxicated patrons. To discourage this practice, restaurants who negligently over-serve patrons can be held liable for any injuries those patrons inflict on others or suffer themselves.

In this article, one of Texas' most experienced dram shop litigators, Michael Grossman, will explain under what conditions restaurants can be sued for over-serving patrons. For an overview on Texas dram shop law, make sure to check out our Comprehensive Guide to Dram Shop Law to learn all you'll need to know.

Questions answered on this page:

  • Can restaurants be sued for serving too much alcohol?
  • What has to be done to prove that a restaurant is liable under the Texas Dram Shop Act?
  • Do Texas dram shop laws apply to restaurants or just bars?

What makes a restaurant liable for drunk driving accidents?

In a nutshell, under Texas's Dram Shop Act, in order to hold a restaurant liable under a dram shop cause of action, you need to show that they served an obviously intoxicated person, and the person's intoxication led to an accident that resulted in injuries. This liability can also apply to bars, liquor stores, private clubs, and even frat parties as long as they sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person who later injured someone.

When people think of "drunks" out in public, they usually picture some seedy bar where all anyone is doing is drinking. But people get intoxicated at restaurants all the time. Restaurants derive a large percentage of their profits from the sale of alcohol. They have every incentive to sell, sell, sell.

Further, waiters and waitresses make most of their money from tips, and they are often reticent to cut a patron off and risk getting a lower tip. Lastly, restaurant owners want everyone to have a "good time" so that they come back. All of this adds up to an environment the encourages patrons' to be served entirely too much alcohol.

In fact, in the modern restaurant landscape, most servers are taught sophisticated suggestive selling techniques and receive extensive spirits and wine training in order to maximize alcohol sales. A look in the training materials of some of the larger corporate restaurant chains reveals that servers are required to offer alcoholic beverages to their customers between four and five times at various points during a customer's meal. These same restaurants then hold contests where servers are rewarded should they manage to get a guest who says yes to each of these five different offers.

The problem is that very few people can consume four or five drinks during a single meal without becoming quite intoxicated. The scariest part may be that these larger national chains are some of the more responsible alcohol providers in the industry. All that to say, restaurants are one of the largest contributors to drunken driving accidents. It's not that nost restaurants don't follow the rules (we'd argue that most bars do not), it's more a function of their being so many restaurants that break the rules often enough. A bunch of small mistakes adds up to a big problem.

How do we prove that a restaurant is liable for an alcohol-related injury or death?

Proving that a restaurant is liable under the Texas Dram Shop Act can be a very complex process. One of the things that Grossman Law Offices does with all of its cases is conduct a thorough preliminary investigation. We want to know every available bit of information exists from the police, witnesses, and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) investigators. It's obviously important that we make sure we've determined at which restaurant the person who caused the accident had been drinking. We can't tell you how many times our clients were told that the intoxicated person was drinking at Chotchkie's restaurant, when it was actually Shenanigans.

Once we've identified the right establishment, we file a lawsuit against them on your behalf. The main purpose of the lawsuit is to allow us to uncover any evidence that the restaurant has, be it receipts, witness statements, internal investigation reports, security camera footage, and the names of who was working the day of the incident. We then want to place under oath in a deposition every potential witness, to put them on record about what they saw. It's the combination of documents, physical evidence, and witness statements that can piece together the story of whether the person who caused the accident was over-served at the restaurant and THAT over-service caused the accident.

In short, dram shop cases are a lot of work, and a lawyer who isn't willing to put in the effort will never be able to help you or your family.

You need the right lawyers on your side.

Your best chance for success in your dram shop case rests with having an experienced Texas dram shop attorney representing you. The dram shop lawyers at Grossman Law Offices been winning dram shop cases for over a quarter of a century.

We know what it takes to hold the defendant accountable for their actions and can help you obtain the compensation that you deserve. If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving or alcohol-related accident, you should call one of our attorneys for a free consultation at (855) 326-0000.

If you would like to know more about dram shop law, you may be interested in these related articles:

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