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Divided Negligence in Texas DWI Cases

Drunk driving accidents frequently make headlines, often due to deaths and injuries. When an innocent motorist or pedestrian is killed in such a crash, it can seem natural to blame the alleged drunk driver. However, accurately assigning blame in a DWI case can be significantly more complicated.

Example of DRAM Shop Claim

A Texas man was recently convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The man allegedly drove with a blood alcohol content of 0.295, more than three times the legal limit. Police say he was traveling about 130 mph when he collided with the back of a truck, killing the woman inside. While it is illegal to operate a vehicle with such a high blood alcohol level, the suspect may not have been entirely to blame for the accident.

The man has already been convicted and sent to prison for causing the accident, but a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim's family could target the club that served him alcohol. Texas law allows for divided negligence in such a suit, meaning that any party deemed to be 51 percent or more responsible for a death may be sued accordingly. The strippers working on the night of the crash reportedly pushed drinks on the suspect until he could no longer afford them, at which time he left the club and got on the road.

While the suspect ultimately made the choice to drive, the fact that the club implements a policy encouraging employees to push alcohol on already drunk patrons suggests that it and its operators are partially responsible for the victim's death.

Source: Opposing Views, "Assigning Blame in a DUI Death," Aug. 21, 2012

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