Client Stories: Driver Killed in Crash After Drinking at Burnhouse Bar

Michael GrossmanNovember 03, 2019 3 minutes

While they may not show it off in their marketing materials, many law firms act as though the law is an arcane and mysterious realm of knowledge that the average person just can't understand. From their perspective, this might seem to make sense: if people are convinced that their legal issue is beyond their ability to comprehend, they're more likely to let you do your thing without second-guessing or asking a lot of questions. But that's not at all the approach our firm takes. We find that our legal system is pretty easy to comprehend when it's explained clearly and succinctly, and that it's to everyone's benefit (including ours) to help the public do so, in part by discussing cases we've taken and how the law applies to them.

One such case involved a man who went out for a night of revelry at Burnhouse Bar in San Antonio, then crashed his car into another vehicle while driving back home. The collision resulted in his death and injuries to his wife as well as the driver of another vehicle. Postmortem toxicology results suggested he was intoxicated at more than twice the legal limit when the wreck occurred, suggesting that the bar almost certainly over-served him before he drove home.

How A Bar's Negligence Led to Terrible Consequences

The events we'll examine today took place in March of this year. Our client had spent a night out with his wife at Burnhouse, during which he consumed 10 shots provided to him for free by the bar and purchased a bottle of Ciroq vodka. It's not yet clear how much of that was consumed before he left, but if the bar sold the bottle of vodka to him when he was already intoxicated, they definitely violated their obligation to serve alcohol safely.

Whatever the case may be, based on statements by his wife, it appears our client left the bar, stumbling on his way out, and was helped to his feet by a bouncer. He was then handed his keys by a valet and allowed to drive away. In other words, multiple staff members at the bar were fully aware of someone in an obviously intoxicated state (one he shouldn't have been allowed to reach in the first place) about to drive home, and none of them attempted to do anything to prevent it. This is exactly the kind of behavior that dram shop law exists to deter.

The subsequent crash led to our client's death, and caused his wife severe injuries, including a fractured rotator cuff, collapsed right lung, and fractured collar bone. She faces a long road to recovery, while also dealing with the grief of losing her husband in sudden and traumatic fashion.

Now, it would be easy to look at this situation and think, "It seems like this guy just paid the price for his bad choices. Why is it the bar's responsibility to keep him from drinking too much?" The problem with this argument is that, while we can certainly debate the ethics behind the law, bars and other alcohol providers still have a legal obligation to cut their patrons off once they become obviously intoxicated. If they fail to do so and injury or death occur as a result, dram shop claims provide the most effective way to hold them accountable.

It's not terribly implausible to think Burnhouse might have over-served our client, given their long rap sheet of Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission complaints we've already uncovered. These include prior service to intoxicated patrons, service of alcohol to minors, and aggravated breach of the peace. (Basically, a situation in which a fight broke out and someone was seriously injured or killed, often caused by over-service or inadequate security.)

While none of this circumstantial evidence proves the establishment did anything wrong in this case, we expect that a more thorough investigation will establish that conclusively. Once our attorneys know they can prove our client was most likely served while intoxicated, we fully expect that they'll be able to successfully hold Burnhouse accountable and deter future acts of negligence.