Third Party Dram Shop - Step 5: We litigate the case, including depositions, mediation, and trial.
The final step in a Texas Dram Shop case is litigation. Now, this doesn't mean that we jump straight into the courtroom and start submitting evidence. This where all of our hard work starts to pay off. During the litigation phase, you as the plaintiff will be on the offensive. We'll be looking at the procedures in place at the drinking establishment, what led to the drunk person that injured you to being over-served, and gathering evidence in the form of witness statements, CCTV footage, and police statements to make sure that your case is a home run.
Litigation requires a steady but strong hand from your attorney. The defendant is going to try to throw everything including the kitchen sink at your claim, so exhausting every avenue of getting compensation must be entertained. Remember, it is against the law to over-serve a patron. The bar should have this at the forefront of their business practice, otherwise there wouldn't be a Dram Shop case against them to begin with.
Experienced lawyers and law professors write mammoth-sized books on case litigation, so we decided to outline below a simple and general walk-through, to help you during this process without you having to take a college class on the subject matter.
For an overview of the other steps taken in a dram shop case, click on the links below:
Questions answered on this page:
- What are the steps in the litigation process under in a Texas Dram Shop case?
- What are the main aspects of the discovery phase of trial?
- What are the consequences of hiring an inexperienced Dram Shop attorney?
Filing A Claim - First and foremost, the process begins when we send a claim to the defendants. This usually involves filing a lawsuit first and then sending the other side some beginning settlement offer. This is done in close communication with you. No settlement offer will ever be accepted on your behalf without your being aware of it. The lawsuit states the claims you're pursuing: what happened, where, and what laws we are invoking for you. Lawsuit complaints (which in Texas state courts are called "Petitions") are relatively simple documents. They don't require an enormous amount of evidence. They usually just state some of the case's basic facts and why you are entitled to some form of compensation. Complaints/petitions simply begin the lawsuit.
At this point, settlement negotiations start. Sometimes, defendants are well aware of the facts, know that they might well be held liable, and want to get themselves out of the process entirely. They can do this by offering us a reasonable settlement offer which we (you and our team of lawyers) decide is worth taking. But the larger your claim, the less likely we'll receive an appropriate settlement offer this early.
Discovery - When lawsuits are filed, the first thing that happens is "discovery" begins. Discovery is the process in which both sides exchange evidence. Under both the state and federal rules of evidence, both sides can make requests to each other for any and all relevant materials such as documents, video tapes, reports, and emails. The whole idea of discovery is that all the facts should be out and in the open. In theory, this is great. In practice, it can lead to huge disagreements between the lawyers over what documents should be released. Also, any documents that are privileged between you and your attorneys are to be withheld under the attorney-client privilege.
Another key aspect of discovery is taking depositions. You may have seen depositions on TV or in movies. Basically, a witness in placed under oath and required to answer questions about his or her knowledge of the case. The witness is required to be truthful and fully explain what they know. This serves any number of purposes.
- First, it's informational. Many things can come to light about what happened when someone is forced to tell the truth. Also, we could find out that there are inconsistencies between people's stories that may be helpful or problematic down the road.
- Second, we nail people down on what their story really is. When witnesses--particularly those who might have done something they are not proud of--get closer to trial, they tend to "forget" things or come up with some new reality in their heads. If they testify at trial, their prior deposition testimony can be used to impeach them.
- Third, we get sufficient evidence for our case to withstand attempts by the defendants to get out of the case.
Discovery is a lot more complicated than it sounds. It takes years for attorneys to understand the nuances of the rules of evidence and how evidence plays out in cases. The experienced litigators at Grossman Law Offices have been practicing law for 25 years and can get you the evidence you will need.
Under both federal and state rules, the defendants will have the opportunity to file a "motion for summary judgment" prior to trial after discovery has been completed. What this in essence says is, "The plaintiff doesn't have any evidence to prove we are liable and it would be improper to even submit this before the jury." These motions are put in place for good reasons: if after discovery has been completed and you don't have any proof, why bother wasting a jury's time?
But plaintiffs have the opportunity to rebut this by offering evidence--usually deposition testimony, documents, and affidavits--that their claims are valid. Plaintiffs do not have to "prove" their cases, in other words, they don't have to win or even show that their evidence is more valid than the opposing side.
In state court especially, summary judgment is an easy standard to meet for plaintiffs. In federal court, it's a bit more difficult, but your experienced dram shop lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have the capability to secure your win.
This process follows summary judgement and serves to come to agreement between parties. This step involves a mediator, both sides presenting suggested settlement offers, and possibly an outcome that prevents your case from going to trial.
The ideal situation is that mediation ends with both parties having compromised on a settlement amount, but that's not always the case.
This is the process by which a jury determines, based on the preponderance of evidence, if you deserve to win your case. Both your lawyer and the defense attorney will present opening statements to the jury members. Following that comes the meat of the trial, in which both lawyers go back and forth, questioning witnesses on the stand. This is the meat of the trial. Witnesses can make or break your case. And finally, closing statements are presented by both lawyers, leaving the jury members to decide on a verdict.
Our attorneys have 25 years of litigation experience. Let us help you.
When your case seems to slip up on you and you're not sure what step to take next, let us help you through it. We've helped hundred of clients get the compensation they deserve. Call us at (855) 326-0000 now.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
- Evidence Needed to Win a Texas Dram Shop Case
- Private Clubs Are Not Exempt from Texas Dram Shop Law
- Texas Dram Shop Law: Alcohol-Related Slip and Fall Accidents