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Evidence Needed to Win Texas First-Party Dram Shop Cases

In first-party dram shop cases, a bar has served a drinker to excess, and then that customer injures or kills themselves upon leaving the bar. Most commonly this is manifested as a car accident, but it can include all manner of alcohol-related injuries.

These cases are challenging for the simple fact that juries need considerable evidence of a bar's misconduct before they are willing to conclude that a bar is more at fault than the intoxicated customer themselves. After all, it's a perfectly natural reaction to think why should the bar have to pay for the injuries when the injured person is the one who drank the alcohol? The best answer to this question is that some bars (many, in fact) go so far out of their way to break every law on the books that some juries are more compelled to punish them than they are to punish a drunk person for a bad decision. But in order to inspire this type of outrage in Texas jurors, you'll need very compelling evidence.

In this article, Texas attorney Michael Grossman will describe the evidence necessary to win a first-part dram shop case under Texas law.


Questions answered on this page:

  • Can you sue a bar if they served too much alcohol to someone who then hurt or killed themselves?
  • Can first-party dram shop cases be won?
  • What makes first-party dram shop cases challenging?
  • How can you prove that a bar over-served a customer?

Evidence to Establish Liability In a First-Party Case.

In any tort case, the plaintiff (the person bringing the suit) has to prove to a court that the other party did something wrong, and that that bad act caused an accident that led to an injury or death. When it comes to the improper service of alcohol, there are many things that a bar can do wrong, and in doing so break the law, but only one particular offense will cause them to be liable for injuries and able to be sued.

In first-party cases, the specific thing that must be proven is that the bar or restaurant served a customer more alcohol once they knew (or should have known had they been paying attention) that he or she was already intoxicated to the point that they were a clear danger to themselves and others. This is called the "obvious intoxication standard." To learn more, read our obvious intoxication overview page. But, in a nutshell, the whole case hinges on whether or not we can prove that the bar knew or should have known that they were serving someone who had already had way too much to drink.

While this is indeed a tough standard to meet, we're up to the challenge. Our attorneys have won hundreds of dram shop cases, despite the challenges.

There are at least three kinds of evidence that we can use to meet the obvious intoxication standard:

  • Testimony: Some of the best evidence you'll ever have comes from eyewitnesses. They can explain, for instance, that they saw the customer-turned-victim stumbling around, his eyes bloodshot, slurring his words, and agitated BEFORE the bar served another drink to them. Further, sometimes bar employees --under oath-- will admit that they served the customer when he was already a little drunk or after serving him multiple drinks.
  • Documents: There are numerous documents your lawyer should secure. Receipts from the customer was at the bar to prove how much was served to them, their blood-alcohol level if there was a blood draw, and the employee handbook from the bar to show how there weren't policies in place to stop over-service before it started.
  • Toxicologist testimony: A toxicologist is a testifying expert who can explain to a jury how intoxicated the customer was around the last time they were served by reverse extrapolating and drawing scientifically sound inferences from the physical data (such as a blood serum sample), allowing them to testify as to what signs of intoxication the customer would have been exhibiting when they were served additional alcohol.
  • Any records of fast lawlessness: Among the more compelling evidence that juries are shown is data which suggests that bars have a history of breaking the law. We often enter into evidence police reports and TABC investigative reports related to the bar's past violations of the law.

As in all cases, not one of these pieces of evidence will ever be the "smoking gun" that shows the bar is responsible for your loss. Instead, it takes painstaking work to piece together exactly what the bar did, and what they should have done better to prevent the accident from occurring.

Evidence Used to Establish The Losses Sustained

In any civil case, whether its dram shop, contract disputes, or property litigation, it's not enough to show that someone did something wrong. You must also prove that you were harmed as a result of their wrong doing. Courts aren't "moral police" that chastise parties for making mistakes, but instead they seek to restore victims to as close as they were prior to the incident.

By way of example, if you were walking out of a store, saw someone run into your car in a parking lot, and incident caused $1,000 in damages to your car, you're only really entitled to about $1,000. Most people easily understand this. The losses sustained in an injurious or fatal dram shop case are much more complicated because they're not as easily identified. But with the right attorney and the right evidence, juries will ensure that fair compensation is provided to make accident victims whole.

Lawyers arm themselves with evidence such as medical bills, W2 forms to show lost wages, statements from psychiatrists and counselors to show that mental anguish occurred, etc.

As with all evidence, your attorney must provide every valuable statement, document, or bill into evidence in a way that is not only compelling, but meets with the stringencies of the Texas rules of evidence. It takes lawyers many years to master these arcane and confusing rules.

Grossman Law Offices Knows How To Win First Party Dram Shop Lawsuits

No matter the unique circumstances of your case, it's time to call an attorney who's helped others in your exact situation. We know it seems intimidating and even a little confusing, but that's why we're here. Call the experienced Texas dram shop attorneys at Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000 for a free consultation about your potential first-party dram shop claim.


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