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Parties With Alcohol: Who Can Be Held Liable?

Social gatherings are a common cultural phenomena, and at many of these gatherings, alcohol is often consumed by those in attendance. Enjoying alcohol at a social function can be enjoyable when it is consumed responsibly, but it can also turn into a bad situation when party guests leave the party after becoming intoxicated. Leaving a party while intoxicated could lead to them hurting themselves or others if they were to get into an accident.

In this article, dram shop attorney Michael Grossman explains when a party host can be liable, and when they cannot be held liable, for over-serving alcohol at their party.

Keep in mind, any legal action you'd be able to take must be rooted in the Texas Dram Shop Act, so be sure to familiarize yourself with our popular Comprehensive Guide To Dram Shop Law now.

Questions answered on this page:

  • When is someone considered a party host under the law?
  • When is a party host considered a "provider" of alcohol?
  • Is there a particular aspect that makes one party host liable over another party host?
  • How can an attorney help me get the most compensation possible for my case?

Social Gatherings

Under the Dram Shop Act, the only people who can be held liable for negligent over-service of alcohol are known as "providers," as defined by the statute. In essence, a "provider" is a business that sells alcohol directly to the public, such as a bar, restaurant, liquor store, or grocery store.

Two quick points about why these laws are setup in this way is due two things:

  • Prior to the Dram Shop Act, no one could be sued for alcohol provision. That means bars plying their guests with literally bottles of liquor could not be held liable for their negligence. Maybe some day the law will extend to private parties, but probably not.
  • Courts and legislatures aren't quite keen on meddling into private affairs. We don't want dinner or football party hosts scouring their home to make sure people aren't drinking too much.

With this in mind, if a group of friends or work colleagues hosts a party to watch a football game or to celebrate a birthday, the party host cannot be held liable for any alcohol-related accidents, so long as no money is charged and/or exchanged. Although, if an adult serves alcohol to any minors at parties, all of this changes. If a grownup serves alcohol to anyone under the age of 18, they can be sued for any resulting damages. So, if your child was hurt because an adult gave them alcohol, you will want to talk to an experienced dram shop attorney as soon as possible.

When A Party Is More Than A Social Gathering

Over the years, we've seen cases where what appeared to be a normal social gathering was anything but normal. Some examples of situations in which a social gathering could increase possible liability for the party host would include:

  • Fraternity and Sorority Parties could see a potential increase in their liability if the party host allows charging for entrance or drinking fees.
  • Catered Events for parties like New Year's Eve, birthday, or work gatherings that charge the hosts money to provide food and alcohol could open another door for liability on the party host.

In just a few of these instances, the entities providing alcohol could be sued for violating the Dram Shop Act if it can be shown that they gave alcohol to someone who was obviously intoxicated already.

To learn more about how Texas law defines obvious intoxication, click here.

Below are two different scenarios that explain when a party host can and cannot be held liable for an alcohol-related accident after a party or social gathering:

  • Scenario 1 - A college freshman at Texas A&M goes to a frat party and is charged a $5 admission fee. Unused to alcohol, he becomes extremely drunk after consuming too much punch that contains alcohol known as Everclear. He then stumbled into traffic after the party and was run over. His family can file a case against the fraternity for over-service of alcohol because they charged money for him to be able to enter the party and drink the alcohol that was provided to people in attendance.
  • Scenario 2 - A couple hosts a football watch party for the UT/OU game. They have it catered, but the caterer keeps pouring alcohol for guests long after the guests are thoroughly drunk. After the party, a guest kills a fellow motorist due to her intoxication. The motorist's family can file a dram shop claim against the caterer, but not the homeowner, because the caterer was a third party provider who would have been licensed to serve alcohol with trained staff who should be able to tell when a person is intoxicated.

The major line of demarcation between a simple social gathering and a party where the host is charging for entry comes down to one word: money. If the server of alcohol at the party, whether it be the host or another vendor, has any direct financial stake in the event, then there is potential to hold them liable for any over-service of alcohol.

The Texas dram shop attorneys at Grossman Law Offices can help with your case.

If you were injured or lost a loved one due to over service at a party, let our experienced attorneys speak to you today about how Grossman Law Offices in Dallas, TX can help you. The negligent provider of alcohol should be held liable for any over-service to an intoxicated person.. Call us at (855) 326-0000 today for a completely free consultation.

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