In Texas, as in every state, if you’re injured by an intoxicated person's negligence, you can bring a personal injury claim against that person. But in some situations, your options for a legal remedy don't stop there. An injured person might also be able to bring a claim against the business (such as a bar or restaurant) or other third parties that provided the alcohol to the intoxicated person. These types of claims against the supplier of the alcohol are known as "dram shop" claims.
In this article, we'll look at third-party liability for an alcohol-related accident in Texas, including the state's dram shop laws, and the rules that apply to social hosts who provide alcohol at parties and other events.
The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code contains the state’s dram shop and social host liability laws. The dram shop law applies to anyone who is licensed or permitted to serve alcohol or sells alcohol. The dram shop law says alcohol providers can be held liable for damages caused by the intoxicated patron if:
For an example of how this might come into play, suppose that Dirk stops at Bennie's Bar on his way home from work. Dirk has several strong drinks, and although the bartender notices that Dirk has started having trouble speaking and walking, the bartender continues to serve Dirk. Eventually, Dirk tries to leave the bar, but he can’t navigate the bar's front steps safely. He falls and collides with and injures Paul. Paul could seek compensation from Dirk for negligence and from Bernie’s bar under the dram shop law.
The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code also contains a provision—we’ll call it the “social host liability law”—that applies to anyone (vendors and social hosts) who’s at least 21 years old and provides alcohol to a minor. The social host liability law says alcohol providers can be held liable for damages caused by the intoxicated minor if:
For example, suppose that Debbie, a 17-year-old high school student, goes to her neighbor Hank's house for a barbecue. During the party, Debbie has a few beers from the keg Hank has provided. Hank notices that Debbie is drinking the beer but he doesn't say anything. A little while later, Debbie leaves the party and tries to drive to another friend's house, but she runs a stop sign and hits Penny, a pedestrian. Penny can seek damages from Debbie for causing the accident and from Hank under the social host liability law.
A dram shop or social host liability claim in Texas is a civil lawsuit, which means that liability is expressed solely in terms of money damages. Some common types of damages sought in alcohol-related accident claims include:
Like other injury claims, a dram shop or social host liability claim generally must be filed in a Texas court within two years of the date of injury. This time limit is derived from a law known as a "statute of limitations."