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Parties With Alcohol: Who Can Be Held Liable?

Enjoying alcohol at a social function can be both pleasant and safe 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 and driving 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 (and 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 Texas Dram Shop Act, the only people who can be held liable for negligent over-service of alcohol are licensed alcohol providers, as defined by the statute. In essence, this is any business that is licensed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to sell alcohol directly to the public, such as a bar, restaurant, liquor store, grocery store, or event venue.

Two quick points about why these laws are set up in this way:

  • Unlike bartenders and wait staff, hosts of private parties don't necessarily have the regular exposure and training to determine when one of their guests has become dangerously intoxicated and needs to be cut off.
  • 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. On

However, if an adult serves alcohol to any minors at a social function, all of this changes, and the person responsible for that service can be held accountable for any resulting damages. So, if your child was hurt or injured someone else 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 in which the party host charges for entrance or drinking fees.
  • Catered Events for occasions like New Year's Eve, birthday, or work gatherings that charge the hosts money for provision of food and alcohol could open another door for the party host to bear dram shop liability.

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.

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 the fraternity charged money as a condition of his entering the party and drinking the alcohol provided there.
  • 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 negligent 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 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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