The fight against drunk driving in Texas underwent a sea change in 1987. That's when the Texas Supreme Court ruled that El Chico was liable for overserving a customer who subsequently caused a fatal car crash and when the legislature codified the decision in the Dram Shop Act, which allowed establishments to be sued for continuing to serve drinks to drunk patrons.
Since then, Texas juries have awarded some eye-popping verdicts in dram shop cases, almost all involving drunk driving accidents. Just recently, a family won a $10.5 million judgment against Spearmint Rhino after a woman was crushed by a monster truck leaving the strip club.
But the law doesn't actually mention drunk driving. It's broader than that, applying in any case in which someone suffers "personal injury or property damage" at the hands of a drunk, which is exactly what Kristian Marca says happened to him three months ago at the Concrete Cowboy, a bar on Cedar Springs.
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There's a rather terse police report from the incident. Marca spoke with police at about 10 a.m. on March 29 and told officers that nine hours before, another man at the bar, a stranger, "hit him in the face with a closed fist and possibly another object." The attack was totally unprovoked.
Marca says in a lawsuit filed last week that he wound up in the hospital with a broken nose and head, neck, and spinal cord injuries. He still doesn't know who his attacker was -- he's listed in court papers only as "John Doe" -- but he does know that the man was extremely, face-punchingly drunk. For that, he blames the Concrete Cowboy.
Marca argues that John Doe was "obviously intoxicated" on that night and presented "a clear danger to himself and others." Despite this, the bar continued to serve him drinks. Had they cut him off, the suit argues, Marca's nose might have survived the night intact.
As it is, Marca wants the bar to cover his medical bills, plus provide something extra for the mental anguish and physical pain and suffering he says the night caused.