East Texas Restaurant Owners Named in Separate Dram Shop Case Had No Right to Intervene in Minor’s Settlement with Drunk Driver and UM Carrier – J. Fuentes Colleyville, L.P. v. A.S.

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There’s an expression to the effect that a particular person “doesn’t have a dog in that fight,” meaning that it would be wrong for that person to try to interject his or her opinions into the matter. Of course, this basic principle goes far beyond the familiar phrase.

Recently, a Texas appeals court was called upon to decide whether restaurant owners who were the defendants in a separate dram shop action were entitled to intervene in the settlement approval of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a minor against a drunk driver, whom the restaurant allegedly served after it was obvious that he was a danger to himself and others.

When all was said and done, the appellate court ruled – at least in essence – that the restaurant owners “didn’t have a dog in that particular fight.”

The Facts of the Case

The case of J. Fuentes Colleyville, L.P.  v. A.S. began when a minor was involved in a motor vehicle accident allegedly caused by a drunk driver. The minor’s next friend reached a settlement agreement with the drunk driver’s liability insurance company, as well as with the next friend’s underinsured automobile insurance carrier. In a self-described “friendly suit” filed in Tarrant County District Court, the parties thereto sought court approval of the policy-limits settlement.

Later, the next friend filed a dram shop action against the owners of the restaurant at which the drunk driver had allegedly been served alcoholic beverages after such time that he was obviously intoxicated to the point that he was a clear and present danger to himself and others. The restaurant owners filed a plea in intervention in the Tarrant County lawsuit, seeking to “defend and defeat” the next friend’s allegations that the drunk driver was, in fact, intoxicated at the time of the collision and that his alleged intoxication was a proximate cause of the collision and the minor’s injuries.

The trial court in the Tarrant County case granted the next friend’s motion to strike the restaurant owners’ plea in intervention and thereafter approved the next friend’s settlements with the drunk driver and the UM carrier after a prove-up hearing.

The Decision of the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas

On appeal by the restaurant owners, the court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. In so holding, the court rejected the owners’ argument that the trial court erred in striking their plea in intervention because they had a justiciable interest in the Tarrant County case, inasmuch as they could have been joined as defendants in that lawsuit. The court likewise found no merit to the owners’ argument regarding their crossclaims.

Have You Been Hurt in an East Texas Car Accident?

Car accident lawsuits can be highly contentious, especially in serious injury or wrongful death cases in which the financial stakes are high. If you need a lawyer to help you seek fair compensation, east Texas car accident attorney Earl Drott is board certified in personal injury law and has three decades of experience. For a free consultation, call us today at (903) 531-9300. If we don’t recover a settlement or judgment for you, you don’t owe a legal fee.

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