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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 to determining just what sort of claim can be filed. Typically, the plaintiff in a dram shop cause of action will either be considered a first party (i.e., directly harmed by a restaurant, bar, or club) or a third-party (someone not harmed by the alcohol provider itself, but by someone who became intoxicated after being over-served at his place of business).

To put things in simpler terms, in a first-party case, the intoxicated recipient is the plaintiff. These claims would be filed in cases where the dram shop over-serves a patron beyond a reasonable amount, and they 're injured or killed due to subsequent intoxicated actions. However, our discussion today will 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. While both the establishment and the drunk driver bear some of the blame in these cases, understanding how a third-party lawsuit happens as well as how liability is distributed, are essential to better understanding your legal options.

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 be reasonably expected to have known that the patron was obviously intoxicated. Finally, the plaintiff's attorneys must demonstrate that the injuries or deaths suffered by the third-party would not have occurred but for the drunk-driver's use of alcohol.

All of this adds up to a sizable burden of proof that you must establish. With the right attorney, though, proving these points will not be as challenging as you might think.

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 that the bar, restaurant, or club contributed enough to their injuries, that they have a legal obligation to compensate the plaintiff for damages. In order to prove that contribution, two things must be established through evidence and argument. They are:

  • The value of the plaintiff's claim; and
  • The bar's liability for the plaintiff's damages

Of course, licensed alcohol vendors don't have to just accept the plaintiff's claims; they have multiple options for mounting a defense. One major possibility is that the bar will attempt to use the safe harbor defense (also known as the "trained server" defense).

The defendant's attorneys can also argue that the claim is not worth as much as the plaintiffs allege. Furthermore, they could simply argue that the bar is less liable than the plaintiff claims. 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 avoid being held accountable.

In many first-party dram shop cases, we have found that the bar has been just as (or more) liable than the drunken driver for the harms resulting from over-service. Ultimately, how a jury winds up apportioning liability can be significantly affected by the specific events of a given case. 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 demonstrate that such a small amount of alcohol would be sufficient to render someone obviously intoxicated. In a case involving 15 drinks, however, the error in dram shop judgment is profound and much more difficult for an alcohol provider to refute.

While juries are typically more sympathetic towards the innocent plaintiffs in a third-party dram shop case, they will likely still be more inclined to put fault on the drunk driver who directly caused the crash, rather than the alcohol provider who over-served them. Only an experienced dram shop attorney will be able to demonstrate the bar shared responsibility for the terrible harms that occurred after they over-served the driver, so that they can be held accountable and dissuaded from future negligent service of alcohol.

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 by conducting 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: