Who Can Be Held Liable in a Texas Dram Shop Case?

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Texas’ dram shop law holds bars and others responsible for serving alcohol to patrons who then go out and cause injuries to others. There are a number of different types of entities and individuals that can be held partially legally responsible for drunk driving accidents based on dram shop law.

Dram Shop Law Overview

The Texas legislature has codified its dram shop law. It holds bars and other entities responsible for injuries that result after a drunk patron is served alcohol at their premises and then causes injuries to someone. The bar or other establishment is held responsible when a bartender serves a patron who is obviously intoxicated, as determined by visual and non-visual signs. Liability can also result when the bartender serves alcohol to a minor, whether or not the bartender knew he or she was a minor. Under this law, the victim or his or her family if the victim is deceased can pursue liability against the bar or other establishment for a portion of the damages sustained.

Types of Claims

There are generally two types of claims based on dram shop liability. First party claims are brought by the drunk patron himself or herself after sustaining some type of injury whether from a drunk driving accident or other type of accident or altercation. Third party claims are when individuals other than the patron are injured and seek damages against the alcohol provider.

Bars are the most commonly thought of entity that can be held responsible for the acts of a drunk driver. Bars can be held at least partially responsible for the injuries that result from a drunk driving accident. Bars can also be held responsible for other types of accidents, such as when a drunk patron slips and falls in at the premises or when the person drinking suffers alcohol poisoning.

Other Alcohol Providers

Dram shop laws can apply to other providers of alcohol other than bars. For example, liquor stores, bars and restaurants can be held liable for injuries that are the proximate cause of the alcohol being served. Likewise, fraternities and sororities may be held liable for the injuries. Others that sell alcohol to patrons can be held liable under Texas dram shop laws.

In addition to drunk driving accidents, these providers can be held legally liable for other types of injuries, such as drunken assaults, a pedestrian walking into an intersection while intoxicated and other scenarios.


If an employer has provided alcohol while employees are working, the employer may be held liable for the injuries that result. However, employers are only held liable for these types of injuries under very limited circumstances.

Car Owners

In some situations, a car owner can be held liable. If he or she lends a vehicle to a friend or other person whom he or she knows to be intoxicated, the victim who is injured can be held liable for these injuries based on a legal concept called negligent entrustment. This legal principle arises when a person entrusts a dangerous instrument to another person who he or she knows is not in a condition to carefully use it.

Social Hosts

A social host is a person that hosts others at his or her home or property under his or her control. Under Texas law, social hosts are not held responsible for a guest getting drunk and then causing injury to others. However, if the host is charging for alcohol on the premises, he or she may be held liable for the drunk driver’s actions because he or she is acting in a manner similar to a bar or club by selling alcohol.

If the social host serves a minor, he or she can be held liable for the minor’s actions even if he or she was not charging for the alcohol. Texas law imposes a duty on social hosts to safeguard alcohol from minors and to prevent minors from consuming alcohol on their property.

Legal Assistance

Under Texas law, there are a number of defenses that bars and other establishments may raise to avoid liability under dram shop laws in Texas. It is important that victims have competent legal assistance who can advise them of their rights and legal options. He or she can talk through the possible options regarding recovery and which defendants may be named in a lawsuit. He or she can also gather evidence necessary to substantiate the victim’s claim and to hold the responsible party accountable.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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