This is the next post in a series of articles discussing issues that commonly arise in Fort Worth, Texas DRAM shop liability cases. Our previous post discussed how damages are typically calculated in DRAM cases. Compensation for victims may include recovering past and future medical expenses, lost wages, future earnings, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and more. When the victim suffers catastrophic injuries or even dies as a result of the accident, expert witnesses may be required to help quantify the damages suffered. In DRAM shop liability cases, plaintiffs may recover from the person who directly causes the injuries, such as a drunk driver, as well as the owner of the establishment who overserved them alcohol. It is imperative to retain a law firm with experience in DRAM shop litigation to represent your interests. In this post, we will address how Texas’ comparative fault laws may impact liquor liability cases. If you have been injured in an accident, we recommend contacting an attorney as soon as possible.
Texas is a comparative fault state for purposes of personal injury cases. This means that if a Fort Worth victim was no more than 50% responsible for an accident, they may still recover a portion of their damages from the more responsible defendant. The victim’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of their liability. For example, Joe suffers a broken neck in a DUI accident caused by Bob. At trial, Bob proves that Joe was speeding at the time of the crash. The jury finds that Joe was 25% at fault. Joe’s total damages are $400,000, which are reduced by his proportion of responsibility, allowing him to recover $300,000 from Bob. This concept applies in the context of assigning fault to the defendants in DRAM shop liability cases as well. Using our previous example, Joe also sues ABC Tavern for serving Bob fifteen tequila shots for his birthday that evening. The parties will present competing information to the jury attempting to convince them the degree to which each party was responsible for the crash. If the jury finds that ABC Tavern is 50% liable, Bob is 25% liable, and Joe is 25% liable, then Joe can recover $200,000 from ABC Tavern and $100,000 from Bob.
It is also possible under Texas’ DRAM shop liability statute, for the intoxicated patron to sue the establishment directly if they were injured after being overserved alcohol. This is true even if the drunk person was partially responsible for causing their injuries. Under the theory of comparative fault, so long as the individual was not more than 50% liable, they may recover damages from the establishment. Consider the following example. Suppose Dave spends a Saturday watching college football games at a bar. He is clearly already drunk when his favorite team wins and he orders a round of shots. On his drive home, he hits a telephone pole and is seriously injured. Dave sues the bar under a liquor liability theory. The jury must decide whether Dave or the bar bore more responsibility for the incident. As one can imagine, the percentage of liability in a case such as this would be hotly contested, possibly by both sides. As long as Dave can prove that he is less at fault than the bar, he could recover a portion of his damages from the establishment.
Liquor liability cases involve complex factual and legal theories. We suggest that you look for a firm with multiple lawyers on staff who are Board Certified in Personal Injury Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, with an investigator on-site, and with adequate financial resources. These traits should be sought regardless of whether you were injured in the areas of Fort Worth, Dallas, or elsewhere.