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Can Rodeos Be Sued for Injuries Resulting from Unlawful Alcohol Service?

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

Rodeos Can Be Sued Under The Texas Dram Shop Act When They Serve Too Much Alcohol

Perhaps few things go together better than Texas and the rodeo. While rodeos can be a lot of fun, between the various competitions, livestock shows, and various exhibitions, there is also a fair bit of drinking that goes on at most rodeos.

Depending on where the rodeo is held, the alcohol vendors can either be stadium vendors who work year-round and work during other events such as basketball games, football games, or whatever else in going on at the stadium, or they can be traveling vendors who go around the country and serve one event, before moving on to the next. Regardless of who is doing the serving, if they're serving alcohol in Texas, they need to be licensed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

With TABC licensing, comes TABC safe-service guidelines. Chief among these is that it is illegal to serve an obviously intoxicated person or a minor. If such a person is served and later causes a drunk driving accident because they were intoxicated, the victims can pursue the alcohol provider for compensation for any resulting injuries.

In this article, Michael Grossman, one of Texas' most experienced dram shop attorneys explains how rodeo vendors can be held liable for over-serving alcohol under the Texas Dram Shop Act.

Questions answered on this page:

  • When can rodeo vendors be sued for unlawful alcohol service?
  • Do I sue the rodeo or its vendors when I pursue a dram shop lawsuit?
  • How can an experienced dram shop attorney help with my case?
  • Can rodeos be sued for drunk driving accidents caused by too much alcohol served?

Do I sue the rodeo or the rodeo vendor?

While most people may think that when they are injured because of unlawful alcohol service at a rodeo that they would be able to file a lawsuit against the rodeo, generally speaking, the rodeo organizers are a separate legal entity from those who serve alcohol at the rodeo.

Big city rodeos, such as those that take place in Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin are often held in sports stadiums that normally house local professional sports teams. The concessions in these stadiums are generally run by stadium concessions conglomerates and caterers who organize the concessions at multiple stadiums around the country. While centrally managed, these companies hire local workers to actually work in the concession stands in a given town.

Smaller caterers often travel from town to town and are hired to work individual rodeos before moving on to the next.

Whichever type of company is in charge of the concessions, it is rarely the rodeo themselves who serve alcohol (though that may not be true of rodeos like the Mesquite Rodeo or the Fort Worth rodeo that operate out of the same location). For this reason, if unlawful alcohol service results in an accident that causes injuries, the victims would most likely file suit against the concession company whose employee over-served an obviously intoxicated person.

The Dangers of Alcohol Over-Service at Rodeos

Like other sporting events, people like to knock back a beer or two at the rodeo (Houston's rodeo has a wine garden, but we won't talk about that). Unfortunately, some folks think that attending a sporting event is a reason to over-indulge in alcohol. People are free to think that way if they like, but it is unlawful for alcohol providers in Texas to indulge these people. Once a person has become obviously intoxicated, they are supposed to be refused service.

However, many beer vendors at rodeos are paid by tips and commission on the number of beers they sell. This can create a conflict between making money and doing the right thing by serving alcohol safely. This problem is compounded at stadiums when vendors of different beers are assigned to the same area. Just because someone gets cut off by the Budweiser vendor, doesn't mean that the Coors Light, or Miller Lite vendor won't continue to serve them, even when they're obviously intoxicated.

Add to that the distance that people drive to attend rodeos (and have to drive to get back home) and what you are left with is a recipe for drunk driving accidents. While rodeos, like other sporting events do their best to promote designated drivers, when vendors are incentivized and paid by the amount of alcohol they sell, it creates a dangerous situation. Most people will do the right thing, even when their pay incentivizes dangerous behavior, but it will also encourage other vendors to look out for themselves and serve intoxicated patrons.

The Challenges of Recovering Damages from Rodeo Catering Companies

One of the main problems in many Texas dram shop lawsuits is that the establishment does not have enough assets or insurance to compensate victims. In a perverse way, these situations reward irresponsible bars and restaurants who do not carry liquor liability insurance. Since the alcohol vendors at rodeos are employed by large catering conglomerates, this issue is usually not the case when a drunk driving accident was caused by over-service at a rodeo.

Of course, while there is money to compensate victims, these companies also have the resources to vigorously defend themselves in a lawsuit. Recovering compensation from a catering corporation who services rodeos or their insurance providers can be a daunting task.

First, they can afford the best defense attorneys. Secondly, their attorneys will have the resources to conduct thorough investigations into your personal life, social media presence, as well as to look for any previous criminal history. The point of this exercise is to paint the victim of their over-service as less sympathetic to a jury and lower any potential reward. Another reason for this investigation is for leverage in negotiating a settlement.

We often point out that insurance companies rarely want to settle, because until you prove them liable in court, or show that you can prove them liable, they have no legal obligation or incentive to pay victims. However, if the insurance company can gather so much dirt that you feel demoralized, their thinking is that they can get you to accept the settlement they want you to accept, which is never full compensation for injuries caused by their negligence.

Why an Experienced Dram Shop Attorney Matters

While the defense that a rodeo catering provider or their insurance can mount is daunting, it is not invincible. If you or a loved one was injured due to unlawful alcohol service at a rodeo, the law entitles you to the same compensation as if the injuries occurred at a bar or restaurant. The key to obtaining that compensation is to enlist the help of an experienced dram shop attorney who has the resources to go toe-to-toe with any defense council.

That's exactly what the attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have been doing for the past 25 years. In that time we have litigated more Texas dram shop cases than almost any other firm in Texas. That litigation has helped hundreds of injured Texans receive the compensation, which the law permits them to recover. Our attorneys have taken on darn near every insurance company under the sun.

If you have been injured due to unlawful alcohol service at the rodeo and would like to have your questions answered, give us a call at (855) 326-0000. We answer the phone 24/7.

If you have been injured by alcohol over-service at a rodeo, you may be interested in the following related articles:

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