Under Texas law, owners and operators of bars, restaurants, taverns, and similar establishments who sell or provide alcohol, may be held responsible for injuries caused by intoxicated patrons under certain circumstances. If a server provided alcohol to an obviously drunk person who later caused an accident or injured someone in a fight, for instance, it may be possible to hold the establishment at least partially responsible. It can be difficult to prove liability in such cases and, therefore, DRAM shop allegations are generally denied by defendants. In this article, we will discuss how attorneys for both sides employ pre-trial motions to establish key elements in contentious DRAM shop cases. If you have been injured, we recommend contacting a lawyer as soon as possible to preserve your legal rights.
After a lawsuit is filed and before the commencement of the trial, attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendants may file pre-trial motions with the Court, which are intended to potentially resolve open issues before a trial begins. For instance, defense attorneys commonly request that a Court release their clients from a lawsuit by filing a Motion to Dismiss. A Motion to Dismiss claims that the facts alleged by the plaintiff in their Complaint, even if assumed to be true, do not constitute legal grounds for suing their client. For example, a Complaint alleges that an individual restaurant owner is liable for a drunk patron who injured a pedestrian in a DUI. Defense counsel may seek to have the case dismissed on grounds that the individual is not actually the owner of the restaurant. The victim’s attorney will have the opportunity to respond to Motions to Dismiss and explain why their case should proceed. In many cases, the plaintiff’s counsel will file pretrial motions as well. Such motions may be designed to amend the original Complaint, seek an extension of a filing deadline, or exclude evidence or testimony that the other side wishes to use at trial.
Consider the following example. The attorney for a restaurant accused of overserving an intoxicated customer seeks to admit expert witness testimony that the restaurant’s bartenders were acting in compliance with industry safety standards. The plaintiff’s attorney learns that the witness, who is a restaurant engineer and not a safety expert, does not have adequate credentials to qualify him to offer such testimony. Plaintiff’s counsel files a motion to exclude the testimony on these grounds. Attorneys for the defendant will have the opportunity to oppose the motion and, if appropriate, the Court may schedule hearings for each attorney to argue their position to the Judge.
The grant or denial of pre-trial motions can significantly impact a case and, therefore, arguments surrounding pre-trial motions can become contentious. It is essential to retain a law firm with litigation experience and that understands how to navigate the pre-trial motion process. If you need assistance with a liquor liability lawsuit, we recommend contacting a firm with sufficient resources to handle your case, an on-staff investigator and that is Board Certified in Personal Injury Law. This is true in Fort Worth, Dallas, and elsewhere in Texas.