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Rawson, Roark & Stuart Win Summary Judgment in Dram Shop Case in Dallas County

Judge Sally Montgomery, of Dallas County Court at Law No. 3, granted Hartline Barger’s summary judgment dismissing all of Plaintiffs’ Dram Shop liability and negligence claims against a Dallas nightclub and its parent company.

The case arose from a January 15, 2017, multi-vehicle auto accident at approximately 3:00 am, which resulted in the death of two passengers, ages 27 and 19. The two drivers involved in the accident received minor injuries and were arrested at the scene for DWI and intoxication manslaughter.

Parents of the deceased filed a lawsuit against the nightclub where one of the drivers had been earlier in the night, claiming the club was negligent and violated the Texas Dram Shop Act by allowing that driver to be served when it was apparent that he was obviously intoxicated to the extent he presented a clear danger to himself and others.

Hartline Barger argued at the summary judgment hearing that Plaintiffs’ claims based on violations of the Texas Dram Shop Act fail because the club was not a provider of alcohol, as defined by the Dram Shop Act. The club was a “bring-your-own-bottle” (“BYOB”) establishment, and considering the Texas Dram Shop Act only applies against a provider of alcohol, which the club was not, any claim based on same should be dismissed with prejudice. Further, Hartline Barger argued that Plaintiffs’ negligence claims fail because (i) under Texas law there is no duty to control the conduct of a third party, absent the existence of a special relationship or some other unusual fact pattern not found here, and (ii) in light of the onerous burden to recover against a commercial alcohol provider for alcohol provision, over and above that required to prove negligence, it would be improper to allow recovery on the less demanding negligence standard against a commercial BYOB enterprise for simply allowing alcohol consumption on its premises. The Court agreed with these arguments and granted summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ Dram Shop and negligence claims.

Defendants were represented by Hartline Barger’s Dallas attorneys Brian Rawson, Stephanie Roark, and Tyler Stuart.

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