Dram Shop Liability Lawyers in Dallas
A dram shop is an establishment where alcohol is served. In 1987, the Texas Supreme Court first imposed a duty on bars and restaurants to not serve alcohol to people "they knew or should know were intoxicated." Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, an injured party or family of a deceased victim could file an action against the bar, restaurant or other establishment that served alcohol to the intoxicated individual. The Texas Dram Shop Act forces sellers to take responsibility for their actions if they sold alcohol to an individual who was "obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others."
Changes in Dram Shop Liability
In a 2007 case, F.F.P. Operating Partners v. Xavier Duenez, et al, 237 S.W.3d 680, 710 (Tex. 2007), however, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that juries must decide who was at fault and that in most cases, "juries are likely assign most, if not all, of the responsibility…to the intoxicated patron." The case held that dram ship liability is determined by looking at the percentage of responsibility for the accident, as assigned by the jury. If the jury finds that the dram shop was more than 51% at fault, it will be responsible for the drunk driver's share of liability.
Critics of the Dram Shop Act are more satisfied with this ruling, having previously stated that, "The goals of dram shop liability bear a striking resemblance to most third-party torts- to remove blame from the responsible individual and get some money from a profitable industry in the process….everyone knows the real problem is not the person who has 15 or 20 drinks and then drives himself home, but rather the bartender who thought the patron's friends were driving him home, or worse yet, the restaurant that didn't realize it was the starting point for an all-night bar hop." According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) however, dram shop laws:
- Reduce alcohol-related crashes
- Increase publicity of the impacts of over-serving
- Decrease excessive and illegal consumption
- Do not decrease personal responsibility- "Creating a cause of action against an over-serving establishment does not mean that the individual is not also held responsible. Rather, punitive damages for both drinking drivers and serving establishments serve similar purposes- to show them the penalties that come with their actions and to cause them to rethink their practices."
In 2007, it was also ruled that dram shops have a "safe harbor" provision which means that an employer will not necessarily be penalized if his/her employee served a patron too much alcohol if:
- The employer requires employees to attend training classes
- The employee in question attended these classes
- The provider did not directly or indirectly encourage that employee to violate the law
If a dram shop is found to be liable, however, it could be responsible for the percentage of responsibility that the jury assigns to it as well as to the percentage of responsibility that the jury assigns to the drunk driver. Under §2.01 et seq Texas ascribes limited vendor liability for intoxicated adults and minors and limited social host liability for minors. Under Alcoholic Beverage Code Chapter 2, § 2.02(c), if a minor's parent or guardian provides alcohol to a minor then the adult is liable for damages caused by the intoxicated minor.
Get Help from Dallas Drunk Driving Car Accident Lawyers
With these tightened dram shop liability law changes, it is important to get an experienced Dallas car accident attorney on your side. If an attorney can clearly and aggressively show that you were severely injured or that your loved one died as a result of a drunk driving incident- where the drunk driver had been served an exorbitant amount of alcohol beforehand- you might have a better chance of recovering punitive damages from an establishment. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced Dallas personal injury lawyers.