Attention All Social Hosts:  Make Sure It’s A Happy New Year

House-partyThrowing a holiday party this year in your home?  Having guests over where alcohol will be served?  If so, then you know it’s always possible that someone is going to drink too much.  And you know things can get out of hand if that occurs.  Now you’ll probably get over it if someone throws up on your new rug or trips over the dog, but what about when they get behind the wheel?  Can you be held liable if that someone drives drunk and ends up killing someone on the way home?

          Generally speaking, in Texas the answer is no, you can’t be held liable.  The landmark Texas case in this area of the law is Graff v. Beard (   and in case you were wondering, no, the “Beard” party in that case was not me or any of my extended family members as best I can tell).  In that case, the Texas Supreme Court held that a social host has no legal duty to prevent a guest who will be driving from becoming intoxicated or to prevent an intoxicated guest from driving.  That is still the law.  So if you serve alcohol to a guest and they end up harming themselves or someone else, you generally cannot be held liable for the harm done.

          But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions when throwing a party or having a gathering in your home.  Keep in mind that if someone can still sue you under a premises liability theory if they become injured as the result of a defect on the premises that you were aware of but failed to warn them about. So consider gathering all of your guests together to warn them about dangerous conditions they may be unaware of or might overlook.

As for alcohol, the best policy might be to simply urge your guests to drink responsibly.  If you try to do too much, you might find yourself in hot water if you don’t do what you set out to do.  In a case decided just last year by the Texas Supreme Court, Nall v. Plunkett, the Court dealt with a situation where some homeowners were sued after they held a New Year’s Eve party where they instituted a rule that anyone remaining in their home after midnight had to stay overnight.  Someone broke the rule and tried to drive home after midnight, and another guest tried to stop them and became severely injured.  Although the Court ultimately ruled in favor of the homeowners, it did so based on procedural grounds.  The Court did not reach the merits of the case.  The general rule is that if you undertake a duty, you must do so non-negligently.   So for now, the best practice is to use your best judgment and be careful if undertaking any additional duties not otherwise imposed by the law.

Don’t drink and drive.  Have a safe and Happy New Year from all of us at Saunders, Walsh & Beard!

Written By: Alex Beard

What is Quo Warranto?

Quo-warrantoOver the course of the past two months I have randomly come across the phrase quo warranto.  The first time was the in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (Part VII, sec. 7) and the second time was in the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code (§§66.001 et seq.).  I was further intrigued by the fact that neither of these sources give a meaningful description of the… proceeding… cause of action… whatever quo warranto happens to be.  I became curious enough to look into it.

Happy Thanks – taking!

happyEndingAh, the holidays.  Tis the season of giving.  But for many lawyers and their clients, giving is not on their minds.  The client has been wronged and wants justice.  But the wheels of justice often turn very slowly, especially around the holidays.  The client wants results, but there is nothing to be had.

It doesn’t always have to be that way, especially in business disputes.  There are things that can be done to advance the ball down the field.  Even some of the most seasoned attorneys sometimes forget about the “extraordinary remedies” that Texas law affords litigants, particularly in suits involving money or property.  

To Those Who Help

As they do each year, the Dallas Morning News published their list of those for whom we should be thankful on this truly American holiday.  I was struck by the common theme of their selections: people who help and serve others.  While hardly a novel concept, it was a good reminder of who constitutes the most remarkable among us.


Like many in our line of work, I grow weary of the sweeping assaults on the legal profession by the politicians and comedians (despite the undeniable humor of many.)  Too often I feel forced to explain that “I don’t practice THAT kind of law,” tacitly agreeing with the gist of their critique.  Why?

The commercials are sickening.