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Under Texas Law, Bars Can Be Sued When They Serve Minors

Unlike the very specific standards for bringing a Texas dram shop lawsuit when the person who was over-served while intoxicated was 18 or older, when a minor is served alcohol in Texas, in any amount, the person who served the minor can face a dram shop lawsuit, except in a few very specific situations. If your child was injured or killed in an accident after being served alcohol, you will need an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit against the establishment that provided the alcohol.

Establishments that sell alcohol know the importance of checking a person’s ID to avoid serving a minor, and if they fail in taking the necessary precautions, they can be held accountable. Similarly, unlike when alcohol is offered to someone 18 or older at a private party, serving a minor opens “social hosts” up to dram shop lawsuits.

In this article, one of Texas’ most experienced dram shop attorneys, Michael Grossman discusses what Texas law says about serving minors and how it could affect your claim against the bar, restaurant, or private individual who served them.


Questions answered on this page:

  • What does Texas law say about serving alcohol to minors?
  • When can you sue a bar or restaurant for serving alcohol to a minor?
  • How can a dram shop lawyer help me if a bar or restaurant served my child alcohol before an accident?

Texas Law on Serving Alcohol To Minors

Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code permits minors to recover compensation from an adult who provided them alcohol, and as a result of becoming intoxicated, the minor injured another person. The law pertaining to this topic can be found under Section 2.02.

Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code section 2.02

  • (c) An adult 21 years of age or older is liable for damages proximately caused by the intoxication of a minor under the age of 18 if:
    • (1) the adult is not:
      • (A) the minor’s parent, guardian, or spouse; or
      • (B) an adult in whose custody the minor has been committed by a court; and
    • (2) the adult knowingly:
      • (A) served or provided to the minor any of the alcoholic beverages that contributed to the minor’s intoxication; or
      • (B) allowed the minor to be served or provided any of the alcoholic beverages that contributed to the minor’s intoxication on the premises owned or leased by the adult.

    A minor or the family member seeking to recover compensation from a bar or restaurant for injuries for death will have to convince a court and/or jury of the following facts:

    1. The person who provided alcohol was at least 21 years of age, and was not the minor’s parent, guardian, spouse, or custodian;
    2. The minor was in fact under 18 years of age;
    3. The adult knowingly served alcohol to the minor or allowed another to serve alcohol to the minor on their property;
    4. The alcohol provided contributed to the minor’s intoxication; and
    5. The minor was injured or killed as a direct result of their intoxication.

    The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code defines “minors” as people who are under 18 years old. This is a bit strange, as the legal drinking age in the State of Texas (and every other state) is 21 years old. As a result, adults over the age of 18 cannot are held to the “obvious intoxication standard,” while for minors any amount of alcohol that leads to an accident is enough to satisfy the requirements to bring a dram shop lawsuit. Further, Texas law expressly allows the parents, guardians, spouse, and/or custodian of someone under 21 years old to purchase alcohol for or give alcohol to the minor if the person is visibly present when the minor possesses or consumes the alcohol.

    What if an intoxicated minor injured me or a loved one in an auto accident?

    Motorists injured by an intoxicated minor in a motor vehicle accident must prove the same elements as in a traditional dram shop lawsuit, with one important exception.

    Instead of having to prove that the consumer was over-served when they were “obviously intoxicated,” they’ll only have to prove that the alcohol provided by a licensed or unlicensed provider contributed to the minor’s intoxication. This makes the case potentially much simpler. All it takes for a bar or restaurant to be liable is that they gave one or more drinks to the minor within a reasonably short period of time before the accident for them to be liable. Some examples to illustrate the difference:

    • A 22 year-old man stops by “Charlie’s,” a bar near work after his shift has ended. He buys a regular beer from the pretty bartender, drinks it downs, and leaves. On his way home, he pulls out a bottle of vodka he keeps under the seat and drinks it all the way down. 30 minutes later, he drunkenly causes a deadly car accident. While he would definitely be liable to those he injured, the bar would not. When he had his one beer at Charlie’s, he was sober. Further, one beer isn’t enough to make anyone obviously intoxicated. Therefore, the bar isn’t on the hook.
    • Now, replace the 22 year-old with a 17 year-old. Charlie’s would have at least contributed to the boy’s intoxication, and is therefore potentially liable for the accident.

    Some might think that is a little harsh on Charlie’s, but alcohol is just one danger where the law provides greater protection for minors that for adults. Alcohol establishments know they’re never to serve anyone under the age of 18 alcohol at all, ever. The consequences of “starting the ball rolling” are steep, but that’s on them.

    What if I lost my minor child in a alcohol-related car accident after a bar served him?

    Those who’ve endured the tragedy of losing a child after he or she was served alcohol at a bar, club, restaurant, or private party have the same type of claim as those hurt in the above example. Your dram shop attorney would have to prove that your child 1) received the alcohol from an establishment, and 2) later died as a result of intoxication.

    Since most minors don’t make substantial financial contributions to their households, you would mostly be filing a lawsuit to hold the bar accountable. It’s extremely important for you to stand up against the bar, because if you don’t, who will? Who will prevent them from just doing this all over again?

    Further, the law allows you to file a claim for your own emotional damages related to losing your child.

    Why The Law Holds Bars Accountable For Drunk Driving Accidents Read More >

    Grossman Law Offices can help you win your dram shop case.

    The bar already has its lawyers on your case. So, you will need attorneys who have experience in dram shop cases. The dram shop attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, in Dallas, TX, have over 25 years of experience in handling these types of cases. In that time our attorneys have helped hundreds of Texans recover damages relating to unlawful alcohol service. For more information about how Texas’s dram shop laws effect minors or for a free consultation, give us a call any time at (855) 326-0000.


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