Texas Dram Shop Lawyer

Liability For Overserving Alcohol to Obviously Intoxicated Patrons

beers and wines for sale in a bar

At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., our Dram Shop lawyers understand that accidents caused by drunk drivers are often devastating for the victims.  Because of this fact, 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.  Over serving alcohol to persons who are obviously intoxicated in not permitted. This law is commonly known as the Texas Dram Shop Law.  A “dram” is a small measure of alcohol–which is where the Law’s name comes from. At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., we have several Dram Shop attorneys who can evaluate your case.

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 crucial evidence does not disappear. Often, criminal prosecutors will refuse to disclose information related to the criminal matter until after the criminal trial is over. If you do not act fast the ensure they preserve this evidence, it will be destroyed approximately 30 days after the trial ends. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. for a free consultation today and let our Dram Shop lawyers get to work on preserving the critical evidence in your case. We can be reached toll free at: 1-800-298-0111.

Dram Shop Liability for Overserving Alcohol

Under a provision of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code known as the Texas Dram Shop Act, sellers of alcohol are prohibited from serving a person alcohol who is already obviously intoxicated.   A seller of alcohol is liable for overserving alcohol 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.

The injured victim and his/her dram shop lawyer have the burden of proving these facts.

The Safe Harbor Defense to Dram Shop Liability

Businesses that serve alcohol can avoid some responsibility under the act under a provision known as the “Safe Harbor Defense.”  Under the Safe Harbor Defense, an employer cannot be held liable for the actions of its employee who sells alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person if they:

  1. require their employees to take a two-hour training course from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on alcohol serving and awareness;
  2. the employee who serves does, in fact, take the course, and;
  3. the employer does not directly or indirectly encourage the overserving of alcohol by the employees.

In a civil liability case, the first two requirements of the Safe Harbor Defense must be proven by the alcohol seller while the injured Plaintiff and her dram shop attorney bear the burden of proving that the employer directly or indirectly encouraged the sale of alcohol to already intoxicated persons.

The Safe Harbor Defense 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 Defense does not even apply to protect them.  While the Court gave a definition of  “vice-principal” that clearly included persons placed in the 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 overserving obviously intoxicated patrons.

Dram Shop Injuries

Accidents caused by drunk drivers are some of the worst accidents on the road. When a Dram Shop allows a drunk to take the wheel, he may weave across lanes, drive the wrong way, travel at unsafe speeds or take any number of unsafe actions he might not otherwise take if sober.  Some of the injures we see as a result of these collisions include:

If you have sustained serious injuries, call a Dram Shop lawyer today.

Call a Dram Shop Attorney

As you can imagine, evidence that proves the management in a bar or restaurant encouraged over serving of alcohol to patrons 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 promptly hire a dram shop attorney who can take steps to preserve video recordings, credit card receipts and other evidence before they disappear. Don’t wait another moment. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today if you our someone you love has been a victim of a drunk driving accident. 1-800-298-0111.


Paul Cannon

Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.