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Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, the term "provider" has a specific legal meaning.

As with any cause of action, a dram shop claim has certain components --or "elements"-- your attorney must prove in order for your claim to be valid. In order for the person or business who furnished the alcohol that led to an accident to be found liable for the injuries resulting from the crash under the provisions of the Texas Dram Shop Act, this includes demonstrating that they are a "licensed alcohol provider," as defined in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

Or, to phrase it differently, only those persons and entities who meet the definition of a "provider" are subject to dram shop liability. Therefore, knowing who is and who isn't a provider has pretty significant implications for those who were harmed in an alcohol-related accident. If you can't show that the bar or restaurant that you intend to sue is a provider, then you have no case.


Questions answered on this page:

  • Who is considered a "provider" under Texas law?
  • What must a provider do to incur liability for a crash?

To learn more about how Texas dram shop cases work, check out our Overview Of Texas Liquor Liability Cases page now.

The statute's definition of "provider," and how it works in practice.

At its most basic, a "provider" is someone who sells alcohol for money. This is usually a restaurant, liquor store, or a bar, but it can include caterers, sports arenas, etc. Below is how the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Code defines the term "provider" in Sec. 2.01.

Sec. 2.01. DEFINITIONS.

  • (1) "Provider" means a person who sells or serves an alcoholic beverage under authority of a license or permit issued under the terms of this code or who otherwise sells an alcoholic beverage to an individual.
  • (2) "Provision" includes, but is not limited to, the sale or service of an alcoholic beverage.
  • Added by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 303, Sec. 3, eff. June 11, 1987.

In most cases, this is pretty straightforward. While the statute may at first appear to conclude that only licensed providers (TABC alcohol license holders) are deemed providers, a closer look reveals that the statute also mentions anyone "who otherwise sells an alcoholic beverage." What this means, in technical terms, is that anyone who sells alcohol is a provider, and is therefore subject to dram shop liability.

When is a party that distributes alcohol NOT a provider.

Simply put, someone may provide alcoholic beverages to others without being considered a provider legally if they don't charge any money for the service or distribution of alcohol. Common entities who aren't providers include:

  • Employers who give alcohol to workers at company functions
  • Social hosts - anyone who serves alcohol to their adult guests at a private residence
  • Manufacturers and distributors of alcohol
  • Event promoters - if, for instance, a radio station hosts a party at a bar, it would be the bar and not the station that would be considered the provider for liability purposes

Let's delve into these examples a bit further:

The individuals and companies who can potentially be held responsible are those who stand to directly benefit from the immediate sale of alcohol. The reason for this is that they're the ones actually in control of how much alcohol people receive. That's why, for example, we don't hold alcohol distributors liable. They may be the first ones to put the alcohol into the stream of commerce, but they have no control over who drinks it.

Or, for example, let's assume that the drinker who caused your accident was drinking at a company hosting a party for its employees on its property. The boss is generous and doesn't charge the employees for any alcohol purchased to supply the party. Under this scenario, an injury victim can't hold the employer responsible their injuries in a dram shop lawsuit, even if the employer or a bartender they hired continued to serve an employee who was obviously intoxicated.

Further, the law doesn't impose dram shop liability on private party hosts. For example, if someone has a football game watch party and plies his guests with as much liquor and beer and they can hold, there is no legal mechanism for suing the host. Why? Because the courts and the Legislature decided long ago that they didn't want to "stick their nose" in people's private affairs. There are some limitations---like serving a minor alcohol---but in general, unless money was exchanged, no liability will attach to the homeowner.

But an important point should be made here: no matter where you might think the person who caused your accident was drinking, you could be mistaken. We've had plenty of cases over the years where victims heard that, say, a drunk driver had been at a friend's house only to find out after our investigation that the driver had stopped off at a local bar as well, thereby opening that establishment up to dram shop liability.

Our award-winning dram shop attorneys can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

As you can see, determining if a defendant was or wasn't a provider in dram shop cases can quickly become very complex. As the proper classification is essential to the success of any dram shop case, it's important that you contact an attorney with the skill, experience, and prior victories necessary to win even the most complex dram shop cases.

For more information about providers and non-providers and a free, confidential consultation based on the facts of your case, contact our award-winning attorneys at Grossman Law Offices today at (855) 326-0000.


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