Texas State Legislature: Save Our Children and Amend the Dram Shop Act!

posted Jun 17, 2011, 1:07 PM by Chris Cagle
The Texas Dram Shop Act is contained in Section 2.02 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. The Act provides a civil cause of action for "providing, selling or serving an alcoholic beverage to an individual who is obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others" at the time he was provided with, sold or served alcohol, and his intoxication was a proximate cause of the damages suffered. 

The Act was first enacted in 1987 by the Texas Legislature.  At common law, there was no cause of action against a provider of liquor (a "dram shop") for over-serving customers. As liquor serving establishments proliferated through the 20th century, it became obvious that there was a need to regulate the manner in which providers of alcohol served their clientele. See the Act in its entirety here.  The Texas Dram Shop Act is the exclusive civil remedy against a provider of alcoholic beverages fro serving an obviously intoxicated patron.  In other words, if Bar A serves 10 shots of tequila to a 21 year old who stumbles out of the bar and behind the wheel, killing someone, the victim's family must file a lawsuit under the Texas Dram Shop Act.  If the victim's family cannot prove that the 21 year old was "obviously intoxicated" at the time they were served the last drink, they may not be able to recover any damages.  There is no "common law negligence" or "pure negligence" case against the profiteer of the over service of alcohol to the drunk driver.   Here is where it gets weird: What if the drunk driver that was over-served was only 17?  

The Case of Jordan Evans:
Jordan Evans, 16, was the oldest daughter of Josefina Reza. Jordan lived with her mother in Bastrop, Texas, and attended Bastrop High School.  She was an active student, on the drill team, was a wonderful daughter and older sister.  Chris Cagle represented the family of 16 year old Jordan Evans, who was killed after an intoxicated classmate lost control of his pickup truck on a local Farm to Market road in Lampasas, Texas.  Cagle learned from a convenience store videotape that the intoxicated teenager bought 48 beers without the store clerk even checking his identification. After  the sale, the minor got behind the wheel of his pickup truck, and rolled it over, killing Jordan instantly. What was uncovered concerning the current Texas Dram Shop Act was shocking:  it does not provide for liability against a seller of alcoholic beverages for selling to someone under the age of 18.  Cagle litigated the case on behalf of the family, and subsequently proposed legislation to change the Dram Shop Act to protect Texas families and hold sellers of alcohol liable for profiting off of sales to minors.

The proposed amendment was supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Cagle and Josefina Reza testified to the Texas House Committee on Civil Practices concerning the need to amend the Texas Dram Shop Act.  

Contact your congressional representative today and ask why this loophole has not been closed.