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Texas Dram Shop & Social Host Liability Laws

Posted on December 20, 2023

Both dram shop and social host liability laws aim to encourage responsible alcohol service and consumption, emphasizing the importance of preventing alcohol-related harm.

Texas Dram Shop Law

Dram Shop laws hold establishments that serve alcohol, such as bars and restaurants, accountable for the consequences of over-serving patrons. Under Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Title 1, Chapter 2, any establishment with a liquor license can be held liable for damages resulting from over-serving alcohol. For instance, if an individual, visibly intoxicated, stumbles at a restaurant and the bartender, despite noticing, proceeds to serve them a drink. The intoxicated individual later causes harm, such as a car accident or an incident involving another patron. In that case, both the drunk individual and the establishment may be liable under the Dram Shop Act.

To establish a successful cause of action under the Texas Dram Shop Act, two key elements must be present:

(a) The defendant (the at-fault party) must have sold, served, or provided alcohol to a patron, even when it was evident that the patron was intoxicated to the extent of posing a clear danger to themselves and others.

(b) The patron’s heightened level of intoxication, stemming from being over-served, must be the direct cause of the plaintiff’s (victim’s) damages, which could include injuries, property damage, pain and suffering, and more.

Texas Social Host Liability Laws

Social Host Liability laws in Texas broaden the scope of responsibility beyond commercial establishments to individuals hosting private events. The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code also has a provision establishing liability for any adult aged 21 or older who furnishes alcohol to a minor. Let’s consider an example:

Suppose a group of friends decides to host a house party at their residence. The hosts, who are adults over the age of 21, provide alcoholic beverages for the guests. Among the attendees is a minor, let’s call them Alex, who is 17 years old. During the course of the party, the hosts are aware that Alex is a minor but choose to serve them alcohol, either knowingly or by allowing others to do so on their property.

After consuming alcohol at the party, Alex becomes severely intoxicated and decides to leave the premises in their car. Unfortunately, on the way home, Alex causes a car accident, resulting in injuries to themselves and others involved. This scenario meets all the elements of social host liability:

  • Minor is Served Alcohol: The minor, Alex, is under the age of 18, meeting the criteria for social host liability.
  • Provider is Not a Parent or Custodian: The hosts who provided the alcohol are not Alex’s parents or custodians.
  • Knowingly Served Alcohol: The hosts were aware that Alex was a minor but chose to serve them alcohol or allowed others to do so on their property.

As a result of the hosts’ actions, they could be held legally liable for the harm caused by and to the minor, Alex.

Seeking Legal Counsel

Parties involved in alcohol-related incidents and injured should seek legal counsel to navigate the complexities of these laws. A Waco personal injury lawyer can provide guidance on gathering evidence and apply Texas’s dram shop and social host liability laws to your situation to ensure the appropriate parties are held accountable.