Dram Shop Laws in Texas—Holding Bar Owners Accountable

Personal Injury Dram Shop LawIf you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Texas and the other driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, you may have a claim against the person or establishment that served the alcohol to the at-fault driver. Like many other states, Texas has what is known as a “dram shop law,” which sets forth the circumstances under which the owner of the bar, tavern, restaurant or other establishment that served the alcohol can be held liable.

Under the Texas dram shop law, set forth in Chapter 2 of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Code, a person or business can face liability for injuries caused by a patron under specific circumstances:

  • If the establishment served any type of alcohol to a person under the age of 18, the establishment (and the server) will always have legal responsibility
  • If an employee served additional alcohol to a patron who was visibly or otherwise obviously intoxicated, to such an extent that it was reasonable to expect that the customer would pose a “clear danger” to himself or to others, the establishment and the server can be held liable for any injuries caused by the customer
  • If impairment was foreseeable, based on the amount of alcohol served to the person during his or her time at the bar, restaurant or tavern, there can also be liability

Though dram shop laws are most commonly applied when the intoxicated person causes a motor vehicle accident, a person or establishment may have liability for any personal injury or property damage caused by an inebriated customer, as set forth above. For example, if a bar serves a person who is visibly drunk, and that person, in a drunken stupor, accidentally starts a fire with a lit cigarette, the bar may be responsible for property damage caused by the fire, as well as any personal injuries sustained. There can also be liability when an intoxicated patron causes injury in a slip and fall.

It’s important to understand, though, that liability only extends to injuries to third parties. If a bar serves alcohol to a visibly drunk patron or serves a substantial amount of liquor to a customer, that person cannot seek compensation from the bar for any injuries he or she sustains in a subsequent accident.

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