Can You Sue a Bar for Overserving in Texas?

Michael GrossmanFebruary 28, 2022 2 minutes

Can a bar be held liable for a drunk driver? Yes, you can sue a bar for overserving a patron under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, also known as the Texas Dram Shop Act.

To sue a bar for overserving, you must be able to show that the bar either overserved a customer or knew that the customer was drunk yet served them anyway. In the case of a minor, a person need only show that the bar served the minor at all. 

How Are Bars Responsible for Drunk Drivers?

Basically, all of us are part of a social contract requiring us to uphold what’s known as a “duty of reasonable care.” Duty of care means people and businesses have a minimum legal duty to avoid hurting others through carelessness and reckless behavior. 

When businesses participate in activities where improper operations can potentially harm the public, even stricter duty standards apply. Generally, the law considers a business’s accountability as proportionate to the severity of the potential outcome when professionals perform their job incorrectly.

For example, when a bartender carelessly over-serves a patron and the patron drives, the public at large is at risk of injury and death. In this case, the bartender and the bar have breached their reasonable duty of care.


Are Bars Liable for Drunk Drivers in Texas?

Texas shop dram law prohibits establishments from serving alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated patrons. A bar must also prevent visibly intoxicated individuals from driving away from the establishment. Bars that violate Texas dram laws are subject to fines and citations levied by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

Moreover, a person injured by a drunk driver may sue both the drunk driver and the bar that over-served the driver in a civil lawsuit.

To sue a bar in a civil lawsuit for overserving, you will have to establish that the bar owed you a duty of care. You must be able to prove that a reasonable individual in the same situation (e.g., another bartender) would know better than to serve a patron, given the facts at hand. A bartender who knowingly serves an intoxicated individual or an individual who consumed multiple drinks over a short period has likely failed to uphold that duty. 

You must also be able to prove that this breach of duty “in fact” caused your injury. For example, if you run a red light and a drunk driver hits you in the intersection while driving through a green light, that driver’s drunkenness may not be the actual cause of your accident.

Lastly, you must provide evidence that the bar’s actions actually harmed you. There is no claim if a bar is negligent and there’s no measurable harm—for instance, no physical injury or damage to your car.

What If a Drunk Driver in Texas Injures Me?

If a drunk driver injures you or someone you love, Grossman Law Offices can help. Recognized as one of Texas’s top ten Super Lawyers for the last eight years, Michael Grossman has recovered over $31 million in dram shop cases.

Call us for a free consultation at 855-326-0000.