Jury Awards Landmark Award in Dram Shop Lawsuit
In a landmark decision, a Texas jury awarded more than $18 million to the family of a young man killed by a drunk driver, agreeing that the liquor serving establishment the drunk driver had left only seven minutes before the accident had violated state dram shop laws. The case focused on Texas liquor liability laws and the responsibility of establishments that serve liquor when an intoxicated patron leaves their location and causes an accident. Case Details Court documents indicate that Jonathan Palacios was served at least 17 drinks and was showing obvious signs of intoxication. Around 10 p.m., Palacios was kicked out of the bar and escorted to his car. Approximately seven minutes later, while traveling the wrong way on Texas State Highway 358 in Corpus Christi, he collided head-on with a vehicle driven by 18-year old Bryant Hernandez. Both men were killed instantly, and Palacios was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.24—three times the legal limit in Texas—at the time of his death. Jury Verdict It took the jury only five hours to find the defendant liable for serving Palacios when he was obviously intoxicated, and then allowing him to get into his car and drive away. Texas law makes it illegal for bars or restaurants to serve customers that are obviously intoxicated and then allow them to drive away from the establishment. The jury awarded Ernestina and Godfredo Hernandez, Heirs at Law of Bryant Godfredo Hernandez, $18,750,000. Message to Other Establishments Attorneys for the Hernandez family say that they hope the jury decision will send a message to other liquor serving establishments in the area. They suggest that bars, restaurants and other establishments that service alcohol review their policies and procedures regarding intoxicated patrons, and make any changes necessary to insure the safety of their customers and others who may be sharing the road with them. When a drunk driver is suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in a car accident that causes injury or death, a wrongful death claim may be in order, and that claim may also include the establishment where the drunk driver was served. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding an auto accident where injuries may have been caused or worsened by an impaired driver.