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Texas Appellate Court Considers Case Against Bar for Over-Serving Allegedly Drunk Driver

In a recent dram shop case before a Texas court of appeals, the appeals court considered whether the bar could be held liable for over-serving a customer who was later involved in a car crash.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving his motorcycle one night when a car crashed into him. The vehicle failed to yield and turned left in front of the plaintiff, who was unable to stop. The car’s driver ran over the plaintiff, who had fallen from his motorcycle, and then backed up, running over him again, before fleeing the scene.

Before the crash, the driver of the car had been drinking for several hours at different bars with a friend. They went to one bar, then to defendant’s bar, then to a third bar, then to a fourth bar where they were refused service, and then back to the defendant’s bar, where they continued drinking. The driver eventually left the bar, and struck the plaintiff on his way home. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s bar provided, sold, or served alcohol to the driver of the car when he was obviously intoxicated “to the extent that he presented a clear danger to [him]self and others.”

Texas’s Dram Shop Act

The Texas Dram Shop Act imposes liability on businesses or people who provide alcoholic beverages for injuries caused by selling or serving alcohol to a person who is obviously intoxicated. To prove a Dram Shop case, a plaintiff must show that: 1) the defendant provided alcohol to the individual when the individual “was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others”; and 2) the individuals intoxicated was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages.

The Issue in the Case

The plaintiff argued that the bar encouraged its employees to over-serve patrons. The bar argued that the claim should be dismissed under the “safe harbor” exception. That is, because the bar required its servers to attend certain classes, the servers attended the classes, and the employer did not encourage its employees to break the law, the bar could not be held liable. Four servers were working on the night of the crash, and according to the bar’s owner, all had completed training and had current training certificates.

The Court’s Decision

The majority of the judges on the panel found there was not sufficient evidence to show that the bar encouraged the over-service of customers. There was evidence that the police were called to the bar 78 times in the year before the crash, and that two employees had been arrested for getting drunk at work. However, the court found that there was no evidence to show that any of the incidents involved customers who were over-served at the direction or management, versus the employees over-serving the customers using their own judgment. Thus the court decided that the bar sufficiently showed that it was entitled to the safe harbor defense. The dissent disagreed, finding that a jury could infer that some of the calls to police were for incidents involving intoxication, and that there was sufficient evidence that the bar encouraged its servers to serve intoxicated patrons to allow the case to go to trial.

Contact a San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured in a Texas drunk driving accident, you may able to recover compensation from the driver and possibly from a business or person that provided alcohol to the drunk driver. Carabin Shaw fights for the rights of auto accident victims and can help you find solutions to the challenges that arise after a serious accident. Carabin Shaw is dedicated exclusively to advocating for the rights of individuals who have been injured or wrongfully killed in accidents. Call 1-800-862-1260 or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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