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The Texas Dram Shop Act imposes liability on alcoholic beverage providers for damages proximately caused by the intoxication of individuals who were served despite being obviously drunk. Tex. Alco. Bev. Code § 2.02(b).
In November 1999, Respondent John L. Parker attended the grand opening of a Slick Willie's Family Pool Hall, located in Harris County and operated by petitioner 20801, Inc. (Slick Willie's). Parker contends that over the course of the evening the bar's employees served him between ten and fifteen free alcoholic beverages, including two given to him by the manager, Craig Watson. Parker became involved in an argument with another patron, Anthony Griffin, at which point Watson asked Parker to leave. Outside, in the parking lot, Griffin punched Parker, causing him to fall and strike his head on the pavement. Parker alleges that he suffered a fractured skull and serious, disabling brain injuries as a result of this incident.
Parker sued Slick Willie's under both a premises liability theory and the Texas Dram Shop Act ("the Act"), alleging under the latter that Slick Willie's and its "agents, servants and/or employees were negligent in that they provided . . . intoxicating alcoholic beverages and liquor to [Parker] and Griffin when [Slick Willie's] knew or should have known that [they] had become obviously intoxicated to such a degree as to present a clear and present danger to themselves and others . . . [and that] such intoxication was a proximate cause of the damages suffered by [Parker]." Slick Willie's moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Parker's premises liability claim was precluded by section 2.03 and that Slick Willie's had satisfied section 106.14's safe harbor provision. See TEX. ALCO. BEV. CODE §§ 2.03(a), 106.14(a). The trial court granted the motion, and Parker appealed.
The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that while Parker's premises liability claim was precluded by the Act, Slick Willie's did not establish section 106.14's third element: that it had not directly or indirectly encouraged its employees to violate the law. 194 S.W.3d 556, 568.
Did the court of appeals err in holding that the bar had not established that it had not directly or indirectly encouraged its employees to violate the law?
The court found that the bar established the first two elements of the "safe-harbor" provision of Tex. Alco. Bev. Code § 106.14(a). Thus, to avoid summary judgment, Parker was required to present evidence of direct or indirect encouragement by the bar. Parker argued that the bar manager was a vice-principal of the bar and that his violation of the bar's free-drink policy--serving the patron two free drinks--constituted evidence of direct or indirect encouragement. There was no evidence, however, that Parker was already obviously drunk when the manager served him. Thus, although any over-service or encouragement of over-service on the part of the manager would indeed be imputed to the bar if the manager was a vice-principal, but Parker produced no evidence of any such over-service or encouragement. However, Parker could not have reasonably anticipated the standard announced by the supreme court, and therefore Parker would be allowed to conduct additional discovery and present further evidence.