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First-Party Dram Shop Case: Litigating The Case

The final stage of a first-party dram shop case is, by far, the longest. Cases can last upwards of over a year in what we call "litigation." This is simply the legalese, or legal term, for filing your case with the court and pushing it through to the end.

In this article, dram shop attorney Michael Grossman outlines the litigation process for first-party dram shop claims.

Questions answered on this page:

  • What is the first step in filing a lawsuit?
  • What does "discovery" mean?
  • What are depositions?
  • When does mediation occur for my dram shop lawsuit?
  • How can a dram shop lawyer help me with my alcohol-related claim?

Overview of Dram Shop Case Steps

To learn about the other steps involved in a dram shop case, click on the links below:

Filing The Lawsuit and Serving Discovery

The opening salvo of any case is filing suit. In Texas, the actual document filed is called a "petition," and it puts the court on notice why you're there and what you want. This document, usually 12-15 or so pages, needs to be done correctly for several reasons:

  • It should be filed in the correct court. Where you file your lawsuit is extremely important. Different counties have jury pools that will award you more or less, depending. For example, you'd much rather have a case filed in Dallas County rather than nearby Collin County because Dallas's jurors are much more generous. Further, depending on the county's rules, if your attorney files your case in "county" court rather than "district" court, your case's value is statutorily capped.
  • It needs to explain what laws you're invoking. Courts require litigants to explain why the court is allowed to even hear the case to begin with. Your attorney must lay out the theory of liability, i.e., what the defendant did wrong and the fact that there's a law that allows you to sue.
  • It needs to look professional. As simple as it sounds, misspellings or incorrect names may not be fatal to your case, but they make your lawyer look bad.

Secondly, your attorney should serve "discovery" on the defendant bar. These papers specifically request all relevant documents from the bar, like receipts, bar logs, company policies, and general information about your case. These form a starting point for getting information about what happened. How the defendant bar responds is up to them. If they refuse, your attorney should go to court and ask the judge to compel them to hand the information over.


Once we're aware of who the people are with relevant knowledge, we send over formal requests for depositions. Basically, we want the bartenders, bar owners, and any available witnesses to be placed under oath and asked to explain everything they know about the bar, the incident, and anything else relevant to the case.

It's here where your case could be won or lost. In essence, we want to know information on following two subjects, with examples:

  • The day of the incident. Did they know the person who came into their bar and drank alcohol? Had they served him before? Did he appear intoxicated when they served him? Had he ever been intoxicated there before? Did they hear about how he got hurt?
  • The bar's general policies. How does the bar train its servers for safe alcohol sales? Did they have rules in place about alerting managers when a patron becomes intoxicated? Were there ever intoxicated patrons in their bar before? If so, was anyone punished?

In order to make it before a jury, witness testimony and other evidence must establish that you or your loved one was at the bar in question, that you or your loved one was served passed the point of intoxication, and that the bar hadn't put in sufficient safeguards in place to prevent such tragedies from happening. These people are the best source for that information.

Mediation And Trial

Once discovery ends, the parties will be ordered to "mediate" the case. That means the court will send us and the defendant bar to a formal conference to try and settle the case voluntarily. This involves each party agreeing on a neutral third party who can act as a go-between for us and the defendant. At the end of the day, you don't HAVE to agree to settle. It's only a chance to see if you can avoid court.

Should that fail, the case will be tried in front of a jury.

The Dram Shop Attorneys At Grossman Law Offices Can Help.

In order to get you the amount of compensation you deserve, don't trust an attorney who's not been down this road before. Our dram shop attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, have been litigating dram shop cases for 25 years. Call today at 1-855-326-0000 for a free consultation.

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