Dram shop law, what is it and how does it effect those in the service industry? You may have heard the news that a bartender in the Galveston area is being held accountable for serving a patron who later killed 4 people in a drunk driving accident. You may be wondering, why is the bartender being accused of anything? The server did not decide to drive intoxicated. While we have no idea how this case will play out, we can explain why this is happening to begin with. The answer is a complicated one and all comes down to laws Texas has implemented called the Dram Shop Law.
What is Dram Shop Law
Simply put, this law means the licensed provider may be held liable for damages done by an intoxicated person. In 1987 the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of El Chico v. Poole. Stating that an establishment can be held accountable for alcohol related incidents involving over servering patrons. Previous to this case, there was no way to hold an establishment accountable. This allowed those hurt in alcohol related actions to seek compensation from the establishment. After this decision, the state quickly passed the Texas Dram Shop Act. This act defines more specifically what a bar/restaurant can and cannot be sued for.
So what exactly does this act state? What are the guidelines? Firstly, it establishes that the bar/restaurant may be sued. But furthermore, it sets up conditions as to who can bring a case against an establishment. The conditions are as followed:
- The establishment must has served an obviously intoxicated person
- As a result of this injuries, death, and or the civil damages occurred
- Intoxication must have been the proximate cause of the accident.
Whether or not all of these conditions have been met is where cases involving the Dram Show Law can get messy. Unless present, it is hard for a judge or jury to know if all of the above occurred. For example, “did a bartender know the person was obviously intoxicated?” Unless there are witness that can attest to this, there is no way of knowing.
Dram Shop Law cont.
It is worth stating, even though an establishment can be held liable, that does not mean the person who caused the accident isn’t. For instance, in this case where a bartender is being charged for serving an intoxicated person who later was in a drunk driving accident. The man who chose to drive drunk is still at fault! Just because the families of the victims are choosing to hold the establishment accountable, does not mean that the driver wont also be charged.
This case serves as a reminder to everyone in the service industry to be aware of their customers. Watch how they interact with others, their speech, posture, how quickly they are finishing drinks etc… Never serve someone you think may already be intoxicated.
How should servers protect themselves
Remember, if you are the one serving alcohol, you are in charge!! You may tell any person no. If you think someone is overly intoxicated, tell them no. Don’t second guess yourself. Better safe than sorry. Tell your co-workers if you feel a patron is overly intoxicated. Help the people around you be aware of the situation. If need be, ask the person to leave. See if they have a safe ride, if not, order them an uber. Do not let an overly intoxicated person drive away.
If you or anyone you know needs a refresher on their Alcohol and Beverage Laws you can do so here. A TABC certification is required in Texas if you are serving alcohol. Do not get caught with out one. Remember to stay safe and serve responsibly.