Texas Dram Shop Lawyer
If you or a loved one were killed or seriously injured by a drunk driver, a dram shop lawyer may be able to help you pursue damages against third parties who contributed to the accident.
Richard Mithoff and the attorneys at Mithoff Law are uniquely qualified to handle cases involving Texas dram shop law. Founding attorney Richard Mithoff has won millions of dollars for families who have been affected by drunk driving accidents. We have successfully pursued damages from negligent providers who enable drunk drivers, including bars, restaurants, rental car companies, insurance companies, and more.
If you are concerned that another party’s negligent actions contributed to a drunk driving accident, an experienced dram shop lawyer at Mithoff Law to explore your options and discuss your potential case.
Call us at 713-654-1122 today.
“Mithoff has been one of Houston’s most respected attorneys for decades, handling such high-profile cases as the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Enron-related litigation on behalf of J.P, Morgan Chase and highly publicized bus and plant explosions.”
– Houston Chronicle, June 26, 2019
What is Texas dram shop law?
The Texas Dram Shop Act, which is included in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, outlines how negligent third parties can be held liable for a drunk driving accident in which they themselves were not physically involved.
For example, under Texas dram shop law, a provider (anyone who sells or provides access to alcohol) who serves alcohol to anyone who is already visibly intoxicated or is under the age of 21 can be held criminally and financially liable for damages caused by the intoxicated party they illegally served.
Additional examples of dram shop law violations include:
- Serving or selling alcohol to a minor
- Serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, regardless of age
- Encouraging a visibly intoxicated person to continue drinking
- Continuously serving liquor so that it created substantial risk of death
- Allowing a visibly intoxicated patron to leave a bar, restaurant, or other establishment where alcohol is served or sold
Unlike some criminal offenses (such as murder or armed robbery) where accomplices and enablers can be charged alongside perpetrators, parties in violation of Texas dram shop law are not prosecuted as accomplices in a DWI accident, nor are they prosecuted for DWI/Intoxicated Manslaughter. Dram shop violations are a separate offense that can carry both criminal and civil penalties.
Once retained, the dram shop lawyers and Houston personal injury attorneys at Mithoff Law can help you decide what type of charges should be pursued in your particular case.
Who can bring a dram shop claim?
A Texas dram shop lawyer helps those negatively affected by a drunk driving accident and their family members (parents, spouses and children) to file a claim against the establishment that overserved or otherwise illegally served the driver responsible for the accident.
Those able to pursue a dram shop claim in Texas include:
- Any victims injured by an overserved drunk driver
- Family members (parents, children, spouses) of a deceased victim
- Pedestrians hit or injured by the accident
- Owners of property damaged by the drunk driver
- Relatives of the overserved drunk driver
Mithoff Law has been bringing dram shop claims on behalf of victims of dram shop violations for nearly half a century. In fact, our dram shop lawyers brought forth one of the original dram shop cases in Texas on behalf of the family of a Houston teenager who received severe brain injuries from a drunk driving accident. The teen was a passenger in a car driven by an underaged, intoxicated friend who was wrongfully sold alcohol by a local convenience store.
Who can be held liable for a drunk driving accident under Texas dram shop law?
While an intoxicated individual who chooses to drive can be held legally responsible for their actions, Texas dram shop law also places liability on parties who enable such accidents to happen through professional negligence.
It is illegal for a liquor store, retail establishment, bar, or restaurant to serve alcohol to already-intoxicated individuals or minors, regardless of their sobriety. When these individuals cause a drunk driving accident, a dram shop lawyer can investigate and pursue claims from the establishments that overserved or otherwise provided alcohol to them.
Parties/providers held liable in many dram shop law cases may include:
- Bartenders: If you’re wondering “can a bartender go to jail for over-serving?” the answer is yes. Bartenders and other servers at a bar or restaurant can be held criminally and financially liable for over-serving, for serving minors, or for serving obviously intoxicated individuals.
- Store owners/clerks: Similarly, if a store employee sells alcohol to an intoxicated individual or to a minor, they may be held liable for any resulting damages in addition to any fines and penalties they may incur for violating their liquor license.
- Bars and restaurants: Most often, the business where the drunk driver was illegally served alcohol is the target of a dram shop claim.
Contributing third parties: People or organizations whose negligence enables a drunk driver to injure others may also be deemed liable for damages. For example, the dram shop lawyers at Mithoff Law successfully sued both Progressive Mutual Insurance and Enterprise Rental Cars for providing a driver facing multiple DWI charges with a rental car that was subsequently involved in a fatal drunk driving accident.
Do dram shop laws protect you from a lawsuit? Social Host and Safe Harbor defenses
The following rules may be used as a defense against a dram shop claim. However, these laws should not discourage you from speaking with an experienced dram shop lawyer at Mithoff Law Firm; they are in no way a guarantee that the establishment or provider will be shielded from a lawsuit.
Social Host exemptions
Adults and other social guardians playing social host to other adults or their own children cannot be held liable for a dram shop claim under the Social Host Exemption.
Under the Social Host Exemption, an adult social host cannot be held liable for a drunk driving accident under the following conditions:
- If a parent serves alcohol to their own child, the parent cannot then be sued for their child’s subsequent conduct, regardless of consequence or severity.
- If an adult at least 21 years of age serves alcohol to a guest between the ages of 18 and 20, they cannot be held liable for any subsequent damage caused by the underage drinker.
- If an adult provides alcohol to another adult free of charge. Bars that serve free drinks in exchange for a cover fee are not protected by the social host exemption.
Safe Harbor defenses
In Texas, bars and restaurants can sometimes be given the benefit of good faith in dram shop claims under the Safe Harbor defense. Under Safe Harbor rules, bars or restaurants that otherwise abide by the rules and regulations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) may be able to defend their over-serving as an “honest mistake.”
Some of the conditions a restaurant or bar’s ownership may be able to cite in their favor include:
- Being up-to-date on TABC-approved Responsible Server training programs
- Requiring employees to maintain certifications and training
- Documented evidence that the bar does not instruct servers to provide obviously intoxicated patrons with alcohol.
Retaining a Texas dram shop lawyer at Mithoff Law
In cases involving Texas dram shop law, identifying the accountable parties requires a thorough investigation. The seasoned dram shop attorneys at Mithoff Law are renowned amongst their peers and have the experience necessary to handle complex dram shop cases.
Don’t let uncertainty keep you from exploring your options. If you believe someone else’s negligence contributed to a drunk driving accident, speak with the dram shop lawyers at Mithoff Law.
Call us at 713-654-1122 today.