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Can a business be sued for wrongful death for over-serving a customer? Indeed, it is possible.

Many people are unaware of how the law works when it comes to social responsibility, especially when it comes to drinking and driving. While most of us understand that an individual who chooses to consume alcohol and then operate a car, truck, or motorcycle may be held accountable for their actions if they are involved in a wreck, many people are unaware that other parties may also be considered responsible for injuries or deaths that result from a collision.

Even if you were not behind the wheel (or even in the vehicle, for that matter), an individual or party may possibly be held liable for another person’s reckless or negligent actions. What is even more interesting is that a party may be held liable for an intoxicated person’s own death.

Take, for example, a recent case in Houston, Texas, in which a civil claim was filed against a northwest Houston bowling alley, AMF Willow Lanes, for the wrongful death of a patron, Anthony Barden. The claim was filed by Mr. Barden’s estate, and is seeking more than $1 million dollars in damages. The crux of the estate’s claim? That Mr. Barden had been served alcoholic beverages the night of April 22nd (and the early morning of April 23rd) and he was struck by a vehicle while walking on the northbound service road of the Tomball Parkway. Because he was allowed to leave the business in a “highly intoxicated state”, the suit alleges that AMF Willow Lanes should be held liable for letting Mr. Barden continue to consume beverages even though he was clearly intoxicated.

When it comes to legal responsibility, some states do have “dram-shop liability” laws in place that make it possible for people to hold establishments accountable for over-serving individuals, making them at least partially liable for any injuries or deaths that occur. In the case of Mr. Barden, the claim is that he would likely have not been mortally injured if the establishment had recognized the level of intoxication he was under, therefore, it could have prevented the death, even though no one at the establishment was behind the wheel of a vehicle and Mr. Barden himself was not behind the wheel of a vehicle.

The sudden and tragic loss of a loved one is a devastating blow that most families are understandably unprepared to handle. They often don’t know where to turn, and will rely on the advice of friends and family members to find out what action they are eligible for. There are other resources as well, like law firm websites like this one in Houston that handles wrongful death cases, or helpful sites like Quora can often point people in the right direction. Overall, it is important for everyone to be aware of the social contract that we all have as individuals in society and recognize our rights, no matter which side of the accident we are on. It is up to each one of us to protect each other and be responsible for our own actions, whether behind the wheel, behind the bar, or out in society amongst the rest of our friends and neighbors.