Houston Dram Shop Liability Lawyers
Lawyers Holding Bars, Restaurants and Other Sellers of Alcohol Liable For Serving Obviously Intoxicated Patrons
Drunk driving accidents are often devastating for the victims. Because of this, establishments that make their living off the sale and serving of alcohol to the public are held to a higher standard than individuals when it comes to providing alcohol to others. This is commonly known as the Dram Shop Law. A “dram” is a small measure of alcohol–which is where the Law’s name comes from.
At Simmons & Fletcher, P.C., we have several litigation attorneys who handle Dram Shop liability claims. If you have been in an accident with a drunk driver and suspect he/she may have been out drinking at a bar or restaurant, it is critical that you hire a Dram Shop lawyer to investigate your case and preserve evidence as soon as possible so that important even crucial evidence does not disappear. Call Simmons & Fletcher, P.C. for a free consultation today.
Dram Shop Liability Law Overview
Under a provision of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code known as the Dram Shop Act, sellers of alcohol are prohibited from serving a person alcohol who is already obviously intoxicated. A seller of alcohol is liable under the Dram Shop Act if:
(1) at the time the provider sold or served the alcohol it was apparent to the provider that the recipient was obviously intoxicated to the extent he presented a clear danger to himself and others, and
(2) the intoxication of that individual proximately caused the damages suffered.
Businesses that serve alcohol can avoid some responsibility under the act under a provision known as the “Safe Harbor” provision. Under this provision, an employer cannot be held liable for the actions of its employee who sells alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person if they require their employees to take a two-hour training course from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on alcohol serving and awareness, the employee who serves does, in fact, take the course, and; the employer does not directly or indirectly encourage violation of the Dram Shop Act by the employees. In a civil liability case, the first two requirements of the Safe Harbor must be proven by the alcohol seller while the injured Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the employer directly or indirectly encouraged the sale of alcohol to already intoxicated persons.
The Safe Harbor provision is somewhat unclear as to what happens if the bar or restaurant owner or manager himself serves an obviously intoxicated person. In the case of 20281, Inc. v. Parker, the Texas Supreme Court gave some guidance on this issue. In that case, the Texas Supreme Court opined that “vice-principals” were the employer and not the employee for purposes of the Texas Dram Shop Act. As a result, the Texas Dram Shop Safe Harbor provision does not even apply to protect them. While the Court gave a definition of “vice-principal” that clearly included persons place int he management of all or part of another person’s business, it declined to decide whether a pool hall manager was a “vice-principal” in that case. However, this is likely because the case had already been decided by another issue and giving such an opinion would likely be considered an inappropriate advisory opinion. In any event, this case is a strong indicator that management personnel are likely to held to a higher standard under when it comes to serving intoxicated patrons.
As you can imagine, evidence that proves a serving establishment encouraged a violation of the act can be difficult to come by. The more time that passes, the harder it may be to find this information. This is why it is important for you to hire a dram shop attorney quickly who can take steps to preserve video recordings, credit card receipts and other evidence before they disappear. Don’t wait another moment. Call Simmons & Fletcher, P.C. today if you our someone you love has been a victim of a drunk driving accident.