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El Chico Corp. v. Poole - 732 S.W.2d 306 (Tex. 1987)

Rule:

An alcoholic beverage licensee owes a duty to the general public not to serve alcoholic beverages to a person when the licensee knows or should know the patron is intoxicated. A licensee who violates that duty by serving alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person is negligent as a matter of law. Whether a licensee breached his duty and whether that breach proximately caused a plaintiff's injuries are issues of fact for a jury to resolve.

Facts:

Two wrongful death and survival actions were submitted together to determine whether a person injured by an intoxicated driver may recover from the alcoholic beverage licensee who allegedly sold intoxicants to that intoxicated driver in violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Poole sued El Chico Corporation and Rene Saenz in a wrongful death and survival action for the death of their son, Larry, alleging that El Chico negligently served alcohol to an intoxicated Saenz who later collided with Larry's car. The trial court severed the action against Saenz and granted summary judgment for El Chico. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed the trial court's summary judgment and remanded the cause for trial. In Joleemo v. Evans, Mr. and Mrs. Wendel Evans sued Joleemo, Inc., Bobby L. Morris, individually and d/b/a Bandy's, and Henry Scott Smith for the death of their son, Patrick, alleging that Bandy's negligently served alcohol to Smith, who later struck Patrick's motorcycle. The trial court dismissed the Evanses' petition for failure to state a cause of action. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the cause for trial.

Issue:

Can a person that is injured by an intoxicated driver recover from the alcoholic beverage licensee who sold the drinks to the intoxicated driver in violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the appellate court in both cases, finding that petitioners owed a duty to the general public not to serve alcoholic beverages to a person when petitioner knew or should have known that the patron was intoxicated, and that any petitioner who violated that duty was negligent as a matter of law. The court held that it was an issue of fact for a jury to decide whether each petitioner breached its duty to the general public by having served alcohol to a patron that it knew or should have known was intoxicated.

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