Owning an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages in Texas is a serious responsibility. As an alcohol retailer, manufacturer, wholesaler or importer, you will be required to obtain or renew your licenses on the federal, state, city or county level. You may also be obligated to carry permits. These requirements might seem daunting and exhaustive to you, but there are Texas license services to help you navigate through the entire process without suffering any missteps.
The Definition of the “Dram Shop”
An enterprise that has a Texas beer license or other alcoholic beverage license has extra liability issues that other retailers and business owners do not have. This is because a business that sells alcoholic beverages is considered to be a “dram shop” and is subject to dram shop laws. A dram shop is any retail business that makes alcoholic beverages available for sale to customers for consumption on the premises. Dram shop laws give responsibility to the owners of bars and restaurants for injuries suffered by patrons who had too much to drink.
A customer enters a restaurant and has several drinks. The employees and other customers notice that this particular person is drunk. The intoxicated patron leaves the restaurant intending to drive home but is injured in a collision. In this scenario, the restaurant’s owner may be found liable for the inebriated customer’s injuries or any injuries the customer caused.
In the example stated above, the plaintiff would need to prove at least two things before the restaurant’s owners can be found liable in the incident, and they are the following:
- The wait staff continued to serve the patron alcohol even though he or she was very clearly intoxicated
- The fact that the patron was served alcohol directly led to the injuries he or she suffered or caused
The Alcoholic Beverage Code of Texas
In Texas, the Alcoholic Beverage Code states that bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated customers may be liable for injuries. Customers who are injured in accidents after leaving a bar or restaurant can sue the establishment that served them alcohol while they were drunk, but they will have to demonstrate that it was evident that they were a danger to themselves or other people when the alcohol was sold. Minors who were inebriated when they were sold alcoholic beverages are also entitled to sue a bar or restaurant for their injuries under the Texas dram shop law.
In most states, people wishing to sue bar or restaurant owners under dram shop laws must only demonstrate that they were served alcohol while they were intoxicated. Then, the establishment’s owners will be subject to strict liability. Strict liability means that the owners are “absolutely liable” for any injuries suffered. In Texas, it is different because a drinking establishment’s owners cannot be found automatically liable for injuries.
The Difference in Texas
If you have a Texas alcoholic beverage license and a patron sues you for their injuries, you will only be responsible for the portion that the jury assigns to you. For example, a Texas jury can determine that you are only liable if you are more than 50 percent responsible for the customer’s injuries. This means that the jury can decide that the driver is responsible for their injuries because they made the decision to drive after consuming alcohol.
Texas courts do not take these matters lightly, and they investigate them very thoroughly in order to assign the correct amount of blame to each individual party. Both the plaintiff and the defendant have the right to retain their own attorneys and hire experts who can demonstrate that one side or the other deserves the majority of the blame.