Bars may be held responsible for serving customers who DWI

Texas Dram Shop Law

Texas Dram Shop Law allows lawsuits against bar owners who over-serve alcohol to their patrons.  Texarkana’s Fat Jack’s Oyster and Sports Bar and Hopkins Icehouse are facing two civil lawsuits as a result of a fatal 2013 drunk driving accident that killed two. Court documents allege Chad Caldwell consumed 20 beers and several cocktails at two different locations the night of the accident.

The at fault party in this case was Caldwell with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.301 when he drove his vehicle into Tameka Pavon’s car. Pavon, who was 38-years-old at the time of the accident and one of two of her passengers in the car died at the scene. The third individual sustained a disabling brain injury.

Caldwell is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being found guilty on one count of intoxication assault two and two counts of intoxication manslaughter. He is slated for release in 2021. Nonetheless, the families of the deceased elected to file a civil lawsuit for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.

Wrongful death lawsuits are often meant to help surviving family members with the financial struggles that come after losing their loved one.  They are also meant to compensate people for the loss of their loved one’s companionship.  Although wrongful death cases are not meant to punish defendants, they are meant to deter defendants, and others like him, from engaging in harmful conduct in the future.  In that way they are meant to send a message.

In this case, the message would be aimed at the two defendant bars to not serve drunk customers – a law called Dram Shop Liability in Texas.  Under the Texas Dram Shop law, bars who over-serve patrons can be sued if that patron then harms someone else.  Here, the plaintiff’s will have to prove the bar served Caldwell while he was obviously intoxicated, and that Caldwell’s intoxication proximately caused the injuries of those he crashed into.

In cases like this, it is certainly an option to also sue the bar or bars that served a drunk driver alcohol. In many cases, the drunken individual was clearly and visibly drunk at the time of service and it is the duty of a drinking establishment to not serve inebriated customers.

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