First-Party Dram Shop Case: Litigating The Case
The final stage of a first-party dram shop case is, by far, the longest. Cases can last more than a year in what we call litigation. This is simply the legal term for filing your case with the court and pushing it through to a (usually successful) resolution.
In this article, dram shop attorney Michael Grossman outlines the litigation process for first-party dram shop claims.
Questions answered on this page:
- What is the first step in filing a lawsuit?
- What does "discovery" mean?
- What are depositions?
- When does mediation occur for my dram shop lawsuit?
- How can a dram shop lawyer help me with my alcohol-related claim?
Overview of Dram Shop Case Steps
To learn about the other steps involved in a dram shop case, click on the links below:
- Step 1: Preserve Your Case
- Step 2: Investigate The Bar and File a Claim
- Step 3: Verify Insurance
- Step 4: Determine The Value of Your Case
Filing The Lawsuit and Serving Discovery
The opening salvo of any case is filing suit. In Texas, the actual document filed is called a "petition," and it puts the court on notice of why you believe the defendant is responsible for your losses and what you're seeking from them in compensation. This document, usually 12-15 or so pages, needs to be done correctly for several reasons:
- It should be filed in the correct court. Where you file your lawsuit is extremely important. Different counties have jury pools that will award you more or less, depending on their proclivities. For example, you'd much rather have a case filed in Dallas County rather than nearby Collin County because Dallas's jurors are much more generous. Further, depending on the county's rules, if your attorney files your case in county court rather than district court, your case's value may be statutorily capped accordingly, causing you to receive substantially less than you otherwise could have.
- It needs to explain what laws you're invoking. Courts require litigants to explain why the court is even allowed to hear the case to begin with. Your attorney must also lay out your theory of liability, i.e., what the defendant did wrong and part of the law giving you grounds to sue them.
- It needs to look professional. As simple as it sounds, misspellings or incorrect names may not be fatal to your case, but they make your lawyer and, by extension, your case, look bad in the eyes of the court.
Secondly, your attorney should serve discovery on the defendant bar. This means sending papers specifically requesting any and all documents or other evidence from the bar needed to prove your case, like receipts, bar logs, surveillance footage, company policies, and general information about your case. These form a starting point for getting information about what happened. How the defendant bar responds is up to them. If they refuse, your attorney should go to court and ask the judge to compel them to hand the information over.
Once we're aware of who the people are with the knowledge relevant to your case, we send over formal requests for depositions. Basically, we want the bartenders, bar owners, and any available witnesses to be placed under oath and asked to explain everything they know about the bar, the incident, and anything else relevant to the case.
It's here where your case could be won or lost. In essence, we want to know information on the following two subjects, with examples:
- The day of the incident. Did they know the person who came into their bar and drank alcohol? Had they served him before? Did he appear intoxicated when they served him? Had he ever been intoxicated there before? Did they hear about how he got hurt or hurt your loved one?
- The bar's general policies. How does the bar train its servers for safe alcohol sales? Did they have rules in place about alerting managers when a patron becomes intoxicated? Were there ever intoxicated patrons in their bar before? If so, was anyone punished?
In order to make it before a jury, witness testimony and other evidence must establish that you or your loved one was at the bar in question, that you or your loved one was served passed the point of intoxication, and that the bar hadn't put in sufficient safeguards in place to prevent such tragedies from happening. These people are the best source for that information.
Mediation And Trial
Once discovery ends, the parties will be ordered to mediate the case. That means the court will send us and the defendant bar to a formal conference, so that we can attempt to reach a voluntary agreement that will settle the case. This also involves each party agreeing on a neutral third party who can act as a go-between for us and the defendant. At the end of the day, you don't HAVE to agree to settle. It's only a chance to see if you can avoid court.
Should this process fail, for whatever reason, your case will be tried in front of a jury.
The Dram Shop Attorneys At Grossman Law Offices Can Help.
In order to get you the amount of compensation you deserve, don't trust an attorney who's not been down this road before. Our dram shop attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, have been litigating dram shop cases for 25 years. Call today at 1-855-326-0000 for a free consultation.
Related Articles for Further Reading:
- How Changes in Behavior Can Be Evidence in a Texas Dram Shop Case
- Common Liquor Liability Defenses
- Are Punitive Damages Available in Texas Liquor Liability Lawsuits?