Texas Dram Shop Cases

old small liquor bottles in wooden box

Have you been involved in a dram shop case in Texas? Are you suffering from painful injuries, struggling with expensive medical bills, and lost wages from time off work? If so, you should know that Texas’s dram shop laws may allow you to seek additional compensation for these losses beyond what you can recover from the drunk driver who hurt you.

At The Callahan Law Firm, our experienced attorneys can help you pursue all the money you deserve following a DUI crash by identifying all potential sources of compensation. That includes looking into potential dram shop liability, which could allow you to hold liable the bar, restaurant, or other provider that overserved the drunk driver who caused the accident.

To learn more about your legal options in the aftermath of a drunk driving accident in Texas, contact our office for a free consultation.

What Is a Dram Shop Case?

If you are injured in a crash caused by an intoxicated driver, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against that person and their insurer to hold them liable for your injuries. However, just because you have a strong case against the other person does not mean you are guaranteed full compensation for your injuries and related losses.

Under Texas law, drivers must carry a minimum of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident in liability insurance. If you get hit by a drunk driver, you will likely be able to get only those limited amounts from them unless:

  • the at-fault driver has liability insurance in an amount more than the minimum required under Texas law,
  • they have an excess insurance policy,
  • they were on the job at the time of the crash,
  • they have personal assets that can be pursued, or
  • You have Undierinsured Motorist coverage on your own auto policy

In some circumstances, a DUI crash victim may be able to pursue additional compensation through a dram shop case. This type of case is filed against an alcohol provider – or “dram shop” – that served alcohol to a minor or overserved an intoxicated person who went on to cause the crash that harmed you.

Crashes caused by drunk drivers are more prevalent around holidays and big events, like the Superbowl, Memorial Day Weekend, the 4th of July, Labor Day weekend and New Year’s Eve when people are more likely to go out drinking and get behind the wheel. However, they can happen anytime.

Texas Dram Shop Laws

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code (TABC) §2.02, also known as the Texas Dram Shop Act, is a law that allows bars, restaurants, and other alcohol providers to be held liable when they sell or serve alcohol to customers who go on to cause injuries. This law applies to all parties licensed or permitted to serve or sell alcohol in the state.

Under the Dram Shop Act, an alcohol provider may be liable if it served alcohol to an intoxicated adult if both the following elements are true:

  • The provider knew or should have known that the patron in question was drunk and presented a clear danger to themselves or others.
  • The provider continued to serve the intoxicated patron.
  • The patron’s intoxication caused or contributed to a person’s injuries and damages.


A social host generally may not be held liable for injuries caused by intoxicated guests because a social host does not meet the legal definition of a “provider.” For instance, a homeowner who serves alcohol at a party might not be considered a “provider” under the Dram Shop Act.

However, social hosts in Texas who are 21 or older may be held liable for serving alcohol to guests under the following conditions:

  • The guest is a minor
  • The host is not the minor’s parent or custodian
  • The host knowingly serves alcohol to the minor or allows another party to do so, contributing to the minor’s intoxication on the host’s premises.


Some common scenarios that can lead to dram shop cases in Texas include those in which alcohol providers:

  • Serve alcohol to minor patrons
  • Serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons
  • Actively encourage intoxicated patrons to consume more alcohol
  • Serve alcohol so continuously that it creates a substantial risk of injury
  • Allow visibly intoxicated patrons to leave their establishment unaided

What Must Be Proven in a Dram Shop Claim?

Three elements must be proven in any dram shop claim in Texas:


The first element to prove is that the defendant can be legally classified as an alcohol “provider” under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. Both licensed and unlicensed parties that sell or serve alcohol may be considered providers in Texas.

The most common licensed alcohol providers include bars, restaurants, and retail stores that sell or serve alcohol. Any facility with a TABC license or permit is considered a provider when it sells or serves alcohol to any patron. However, these facilities are not liable for the actions of patrons who become intoxicated after drinking alcohol purchased by and for other people.

Unlicensed providers, such as social hosts, may be liable only when they sell alcoholic beverages to their guests or provide alcohol to minors. Wholesale distributors of alcoholic beverages are not considered providers because they are prohibited from selling or serving directly to consumers. Event promoters are also not considered providers because, while encouraging drinking, they do not sell or serve the alcohol themselves.


In cases involving adults, the second element to prove is that the provider in question served alcohol to someone who was intoxicated at the time. It is unnecessary to prove that the recipient consumed the alcohol after being served, only that the provider served or sold the alcohol to an intoxicated patron.

To demonstrate that an adult was “obviously intoxicated” in a dram shop case, a plaintiff must prove that the recipient displayed visible, obvious, and easily observable signs of clear intoxication when the alcohol was served. In other words, this requirement may be satisfied if a reasonably prudent person would have noticed that the recipient was obviously drunk when they were served alcohol. Keep in mind that the bar’s owners or staff don’t need to have witnessed the signs of intoxication directly if there is other evidence of obvious intoxication.


Finally, it must be proven that the intoxication of the recipient was the proximate cause of the victim’s harm, which means it substantially contributed to the victim’s injuries. It is not necessary to show a link between the injuries suffered and the conduct of the provider, only between the injuries and the intoxication of the recipient.

An injured party may file a dram shop liability claim against a provider if the injured party can prove that the provider overserved the intoxicated person who caused the injury. That includes third parties, passengers of vehicles driven by drunk drivers, and even the drunken parties themselves. However, compensation for intoxicated parties in dram shop cases may be reduced based on their percentages of responsibility.

The provider may be held liable if the injury was a foreseeable result of the recipient’s intoxication, and it is worth noting that drunk driving crashes are largely foreseeable.

How do you prove negligence in a dram shop case?

If a plaintiff proves the defendant was negligent, the court may require them to pay actual and punitive damages.

If you’re looking to prove negligence in your case, your lawyer should be prepared to demonstrate the following:

Establish the Duty of Care

Show that the establishment (Dram shop) owed a duty of care to the injured or third party. In Texas, establishments that sell or serve alcohol have a legal duty not to serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals or minors.

Prove Breach of Duty

Demonstrate that the Dram shop breached its duty of care by serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or a minor. This could be through eyewitness testimonies, video evidence, or server statements.


Prove that the breach of duty directly caused or contributed to the injuries or damages suffered by the injured party. This could involve presenting evidence of the drunk individual’s actions that led to the accident or harm.


Establish the extent of damages suffered by the injured party as a result of the incident. This may include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or property damage.

No Intervening Cause

Ensure no intervening causes significantly contributed to the injuries or damages and that the Dram shop’s actions were the primary cause.

Comparative Negligence

Address any claims of comparative negligence, where the injured party’s actions may have also contributed to the incident. Texas follows a modified comparative negligence rule where the injured party’s recovery can be reduced based on their percentage of fault, as long as it does not exceed 50%.

Expert Testimonies

Utilize expert witnesses, if necessary, to provide professional opinions and analyses supporting your case, such as toxicologists to demonstrate intoxication levels or accident reconstruction experts.

Preservation of Evidence

Ensure all relevant evidence, such as surveillance footage, receipts, witness statements, and records of alcohol sales, is preserved and presented in court.

Consult with an Attorney

Seek legal representation from an experienced attorney specializing in Dram shop liability cases in Texas. They can navigate the complexities of the legal process and build a strong case on your behalf.

Who can sue under the Dram shop act?

Under the Dram Shop Act, individuals who have suffered injuries or damages due to the actions of an intoxicated person can sue the establishment (such as a bar, restaurant, or nightclub) that served alcohol to that intoxicated person. The specific parties who can sue may vary depending on the state and its particular Dram Shop laws.

In general, any person injured or harmed by an intoxicated individual may have the right to sue the establishment that served the alcohol to the intoxicated person. This includes injuries resulting from car accidents, assaults, or other incidents caused by the intoxicated person’s actions.

Compensation and Justice in Dram Shop Cases

Dram shop liability cases can be challenging. Evidence can disappear, and witnesses’ memories fade with time. Alcohol providers may avoid responsibility by pointing to evidence like employee training programs.

That is where the support of an experienced DUI attorney can be especially valuable. A knowledgeable Texas Dram shop liability lawyer can help you by obtaining and preserving valuable evidence and demonstrating that the provider saw or should have seen signs of obvious intoxication.

With a successful case, you could be entitled to compensation for the following:

  • Hospital bills and other medical expenses
  • Lost wages from missed time at work
  • Projected losses in your earning capacity
  • Pain, suffering, and lost quality of life
  • Physical impairment
  • Wrongful death benefits if the drunk driving crash took a family member’s life


Contact Our Experienced Texas Dram Shop Lawyers Today

Draw shop laws in Texas are meant to provide a path to justice for people injured by drunk drivers and their enablers. However, dram shop liability cases are rarely straightforward.

If an overserved driver has harmed you or someone close to you, contact us online or call The Callahan Law Firm to discuss your case during a free initial consultation.