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How circumstantial or indirect evidence of obvious intoxication works in a Texas dram shop case:

To succeed in any dram shop case, your attorney must obtain compelling evidence proving that the bar or other licensed provider served an obviously intoxicated patron who went on to harm themselves or others as a result. Lawyers refer to the act of gathering this evidence and presenting it as "proving obvious intox."

There are two types of evidence that can be utilized to prove obvious intoxication in dram shop cases: direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion without any inference or additional evidence required. Circumstantial evidence, however, requires that an inference be made in order to connect the particular piece of evidence with the conclusion.

In this article, Texas attorney Michael Grossman will explain how circumstantial evidence is used in Texas dram shop cases.


Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What kinds of circumstantial evidence are used in Texas dram shop cases?
  • Why is circumstantial evidence important to a drunk driving case?
  • How do you prove circumstantial evidence?

Types of Circumstantial Evidence in a Dram Shop Case

When conducting a dram shop investigation and reviewing the evidence, certain types of circumstantial evidence will be essential in proving up your case. Testimony from eyewitnesses, including first responders, is the first type of circumstantial evidence we obtain. These professionals, who are very familiar with the telltale signs of intoxication, can give reliable testimony relating to the appearance of the suspected drunk driver immediately following the accident.

The police can provide valuable testimony as well. While recorded information from breathalyzers and blood tests is considered direct evidence, some of the related examinations that police perform on drunk drivers, like motor coordination tests and interviews done by a police officer, can act as strong circumstantial evidence with respect to the drinker's level of intoxication.

By inference, we can assume that if a person causes a crash five minutes after leaving a bar, and during their field sobriety test was found to be highly intoxicated, it can be deduced that they would more than likely have appeared in a similar condition at the bar shortly before being the wreck. This implies that the bartender or server, someone required to be trained in what signs of inebriation to look out for, should have also been able to tell that the patron was obviously intoxicated.

Further, we typically obtain the opinion of a toxicologist in most dram shop cases. Essentially, a toxicologist will either examine the blood serum sample that was taken by the police and use it to determine how drunk the intoxicated person would likely have appeared to be while at the bar, or the toxicologist will review the circumstantial evidence and testimony surrounding a drunken person's conduct, and deduce from that evidence an estimate of the intoxicated person's BAC.

The point is that there are many clues which can indicate how intoxicated a patron was at the time that they were served. And while it's certainly helpful to have rock-solid direct evidence (such as surveillance footage showing that the person was served even once they were falling down drunk), most successful cases are built on at least some amount of circumstantial evidence, and many are built solely on circumstantial evidence.

More on circumstantial evidence.

When trying to litigate a dram shop case, circumstantial evidence may establish that the bar has a history of over-service. While we will never have the blood alcohol samples from every person who has ever drank at the bar, we can draw some conclusions based on the conduct or misconduct of past drinkers. To aid in this investigative quest, we often obtain 911 call and arrest records with respect to the bar or restaurant in question. For bars that have a problem over-serving their customers on a regular basis, we've found that they usually have a long and sordid history with the local police. By digging through their past, we are hoping to answer:

  • Did the establishment habitually serve alcohol to people they knew were drunk?
  • Did the bar or restaurant use serving sizes that were outside what a reasonable serving size for alcohol should be?

This evidence should be collated and then compared and reviewed against the standards and practices of the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission as well as against the industry standard practices of other establishments that serve alcohol safely. It can then be determined whether or not the behavior of the defendant was in conformity with those practices or whether they should have been aware that they were doing something wrong. If their past behavior is found to be lacking, then the bar's past conduct can serve as additional circumstantial evidence of their likely misconduct in the case at hand.

Giving additional alcohol to someone who is already drunk is dangerous and illegal.

And yet, that's what many bars do every day. The need to make a buck tends to outweigh the safety of the general population, so they serve dangerously intoxicated patrons that they should have cut off long before they left the premises. If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, please understand that you may very well have the right to sue the establishment that over-served them. But without evidence, you'll never be able to hold the bar or restaurant accountable. Put Grossman Law Offices in your corner, and put our experience to work for you. For more information, please call (855) 326-000.


Other articles about Texas dram shop cases that may be helpful: