A recent tragedy in League City, Texas, has once again brought the issue of dram shop liability to the forefront. On April 4, 2023, two women were killed by a suspected drunk driver, Michael Ray Strother, as he was leaving Hugh & Jeff’s Car Wash and Grill. The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission is now investigating the establishment to determine if Strother was over-served alcohol.
This devastating incident raises questions about the responsibility of bars and restaurants in preventing alcohol-related accidents. Dram shop laws hold bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve alcohol accountable for the actions of their patrons if they over-serve alcohol and the patron subsequently causes harm to others. The laws allow those who are victims of a drunk driving related accident to pursue civil claims against the bar or restaurant who over-served the driver of the vehicle.
Dram shop laws vary from state to state, but they generally require that the establishment was negligent in serving the patron, and this negligence was a proximate cause of the injury or damage sustained. In Texas, the laws are strict, while others have more lenient standards, or no laws at all authorizing a civil lawsuit.
Under Texas dram shop laws, a provider can be held liable for damages if they knowingly sell, serve, or provide alcohol to an individual who is obviously intoxicated, presenting a clear danger to themselves and others, and this intoxication is a proximate cause of the damages suffered. Additionally, an adult who is not a minor’s parent, guardian, or spouse can be held liable if they knowingly serve or provide alcohol to a minor under 18, or allow them to be served, and the minor’s intoxication causes damages.
Drunk driving-related accidents are only increasing in the state. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, one person in Texas dies every eight hours and 31 minutes in a DUI-alcohol related traffic crash. The true numbers are daunting. There were 25,261 drunk-driving crashes in 2021 in Texas alone.
The purpose of these laws allowing civil liability is to promote responsible alcohol service and prevent establishments from contributing to alcohol-related accidents by over-serving patrons. By holding establishments liable for the actions of their intoxicated patrons, dram shop laws aim to encourage businesses to train their staff in responsible alcohol service and enforce proper protocols.
Spagnoletti Law Firm has attorneys licensed in Texas, Florida, and New York. We have handled numerous cases involving alcohol-related accidents. Our attorneys have extensive experience and the skills needed to aggressively represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or been seriously injured as a result of a drunk driver. The experienced lawyers at Spagnoletti Law Firm have previously been involved in similar cases and can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was involved in an accident. Please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or 877-678-5864 to learn more about your legal rights.