Three Kinds of Alcohol-Related Claims
There are three kinds of alcohol-related claims that can be brought in Texas: first-party, third-party and social host liability claims. We’ll discuss each of these in this article and highlight the unique elements of each.
In a first-party claim, the injured party is an intoxicated person who is injured after he is over-served alcohol by an establishment licensed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to serve alcohol. The injured party has generally either driven drunk and had a wreck, suffered alcohol poisoning or self-inflicted injury or even death.
A first-party claim is unique in that the intoxicated person, or their family in the case of a wrongful death, will actually bring the claim against the licensed provider. This is harder to prove because of jury bias. They may feel that since the plaintiff was drunk, he is responsible for his own injuries. He will also have to prove that he was obviously intoxicated and that the bar knew, or should have known, he was drunk at the time they over-served him.
Texas Modified Comparative Fault
The defense may try to claim that the injured party is at least partially at fault for his own injuries under Texas Modified Comparative Fault. If he is found to be 51% or more responsible for his injuries, he is then barred from recovery. Any percentage less than that also decreases his award for damages by that percent. At Grossman Law Offices, we have 24 years of practice in successfully overcoming these kinds of obstacles. We will show that the establishment bears more responsibility than the plaintiff because they were in a position to demonstrate better judgment, and that with their liquor license comes the responsibility of not over-serving patrons.
Having a competent law firm like ours with a proven history of winning these kinds of dram shop cases in your corner can be invaluable to help you prove liability on the part of the bar, restaurant or other licensed provider.
A third-party claim involves an innocent third party as the injured party, or plaintiff. This third party was hurt by the intoxicated person who was over-served by the licensed liquor provider. This might be someone hurt or killed by a drunk driver or assaulted by the intoxicated person, etc. In a third-party claim, the injured party generally has no connection to either the dram shop or the intoxicated person. It could be someone hit by the intoxicated person driving drunk, fighting or behaving recklessly. Or the person might be a passenger in the drunk driver’s car. The third party may then have a claim against both the intoxicated person and the establishment that over-served him.
In a third-party claim, the jury will typically apportion fault between these two defendants. The percentage of fault allotted to each correlates to how much of the damages that party will be responsible for paying. Even if the third party is not fully “innocent” and played some role in their own injury, this will probably not be as detrimental to their case as a first-party claimant’s fault. The jury will likely see their actions as less offensive since they were not drunk or over-serving alcohol.
Social Host Liability Claim
A majority of states have now adopted some kind of law that makes “social hosts” liable for alcohol-related incidents under certain circumstances. A “social host” could be a homeowner or any private individual who serves alcohol in a non-commercial setting. Generally, a homeowner’s insurance policy will cover this kind of liability, but there are exceptions to the rule. Since 2005 in Texas, a social host can be liable if they serve alcohol to minors, give car keys to an intoxicated person of any age, or recklessly serve alcohol to an intoxicated person whom they know is going to drive soon.
In 2010, two Texas parents sued a homeowner whom they alleged allowed minors, including their teen daughter, to drink in their back yard. Their daughter was then killed as a passenger in a drunk driving accident. Even if parents are not at home and don’t know that minors are drinking on their property, they can still be held liable if they had probable cause (could have foreseen the possibility) to think that minors might have a party and drink on their property.
Here to Help
As you can see, liquor liability cases can be quite complex and multi-faceted. The assistance of a competent, experienced attorney like those at Grossman Law Offices can make all the difference in the outcome of your dram shop or social host case. So if you or a loved one have been hurt or killed in an alcohol-related incident, call us immediately and let us begin gathering evidence to get you the justice and just compensation you deserve.