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An Overview of Texas Third Party Dram Shop Cases

In dram shop lawsuits, the plaintiff’s relationship with a defendant can be vital in determining just what sort of case will come about. Typically, the plaintiff will either be considered a first party (i.e., directly harmed by a restaurant, bar, or club) or a third-party (not harmed by the alcohol provider itself, but by someone who was intoxicated by this place of business).

In a first-party case, the intoxicated recipient oftentimes is the plaintiff. A common scenario is when the dram shop over-serves the recipient beyond a reasonable amount, and then, said recipient hurts him or herself. However, for the purpose of our discussion today, we would like to address the second type – which is the third-party dram shop case. In such a matter, an innocent third-party is harmed by both the negligent acts of a bar, restaurant, or night club, as well as a drunken driver. Surely, both will be examined in a case for accountability, but understanding how a third-party lawsuit happens as well as how liability is distributed, are essential in moving forward with your case.

On What Grounds Can a 3rd-Party Sue a Bar?

To have a successful claim against a bar or restaurant, the innocent third-party must prove that the provider of alcohol served an adult recipient or a minor. Furthermore, the provider either must have either known or should have known that the patron was displaying clear signs of intoxication. Finally this intoxication must have been so bad that the drunken person displayed obvious signs of intoxication that would have indicated to a reasonable prudent person that the individual was drunk.

All of this adds up to a sizable burden of proof that you must establish. With the right attorney, though, arguing each point will not be too much of an issue.

In the vast majority of these cases not only is the victim a third-party but also an innocent third-party.

Who can be Considered an Innocent Third-Party?

What it means to be an “innocent third-party” is not completely absolute, but in general, we mean that you were virtually not at fault. An unfortunately common example of this is when an innocent motorist is hit by a driver who was served too much alcohol by a bar. Or even if you were the passenger and friend to the drunken driver, sustaining injuries as a result of this person’s driving is also sufficient grounds to take action against a dram shop. Granted, you will need to establish all of the aforementioned steps necessary to defeat the defendant; however, being familiar with the negligent alcohol consumer is not grounds for a defendant to turn away from his or her responsibility to you.

How Does Liability Work in a 3rd-Party Dram Shop Case?

In a third-party dram shop case, the plaintiff will ask a jury to find some degree of fault on the bar, restaurant, or club’s part, such that this dram shop must compensate the plaintiff for damages proportionate to liability. In order to achieve this, two things must be determined. They are:

  • The value of the plaintiff’s claim; and
  • The portion of liability that the bar is responsible for in civil suit

As you can see from the list above, the bar has multiple ways to mitigate its losses. One major possibility is that the bar will attempt to use the safe harbor defense (AKA trained server defense).

The attorneys of the defendant can also argue that the claim is not worth as much “value.” Furthermore, they could simply argue that the bar is less liable than the plaintiff claims, offsetting that bar’s responsibility. Establishing a claim’s value is challenging and complex in its own right but still not as difficult as establishing other elements of your cause of action. Where plaintiffs run into trouble throughout a third-party dram shop case is in proportioning liability, which tends to be a defendant’s primary mean by which to escape liability.

In many of our past cases, we have found that the bar has been as (or more) liable than the drunken driver. Ultimately, the variation comes down to the case’s context. In one lawsuit we handled, in which the bar served the adult recipient only three strong drinks, it was far easier for the business to contend that it was not liable, since one cannot adequately clarify with such a small amount that he or she was intoxicated. In a case involving 15 drinks, however, the error in dram shop judgment is profound and completely justifiable for action.

This problem is usually avoided entirely when dealing with 3rd-party dram shop cases. Typically, in these cases you have an innocent bystander who ends up in a car accident with a drunk driver. Judges and juries are typically more sympathetic to these claims, as opposed to the 1st party claims described above, because there is no blame or fault to spread around.

Grossman Law Offices’ Goal in a Third-Party Dram Shop Case

Our goal is to ascertain the truth of a dram shop case, and hold the bar accountable for what it owes the plaintiff. We do this through a thorough investigation, and with Grossman Law Offices on your side, you can further assure that they do not neglect their duty to compensate you for the harm caused by over-serving alcohol to the intoxicated driver.

We’ve won hundreds of lawsuits in the past, and know 3rd-party dram shop cases like the backs of our hands. Therefore, if you’d like to find out more about dram shop claims, or are ready to win financial compensation, call us at (855) 326-0000 (toll-free).


For Further Reading about Third-Party Liquor Liability Cases in Texas:

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