Mother and Infant Killed by Drunk Driver

A drunk driver killed a woman and her baby early Wednesday morning in Clear Lake. At the scene, the underage drunk driver admitted that she was coming from a bar-another pair of tragic deaths apparently caused by a bar's irresponsible sale of alcohol.

Shayla Joseph, a 36-year-old employee of UTMB on maternity leave, was in her car with her 3-month-old son, Braylan in a child seat, shortly before 4am on the I-45 feeder road near El Dorado. A white SUV driven by Veronica Rivas, 20, slammed into the back of Joseph's car. Both Shayla and Braylan died at the scene. Shayla's husband told reporters that she and Braylan were likely going to pick up breakfast, which she would do each morning before he got home from his night shift.

Rivas and her unnamed, 17-year-old passenger were taken to the hospital. Rivas was booked on two counts of intoxication manslaughter. A witness reported that Rivas was "screaming that she had just come from the bar" and that "they were out of gas."

Intoxication manslaughter is a second degree felony in Texas, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. But the driver may not be the only one with criminal troubles. It is also a crime in Texas to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, and it is a crime to serve alcohol to a person under the age of 21. Both crimes are punishable by fine and up to one year in jail.

Also, Texas law imposes civil liability on a provider of alcohol liable-meaning both the server and the employer-for wrongful death or personal jury if the provider served alcohol to a person who is obviously intoxicated to the extent he or she is a clear danger to herself or others. If the provider serves alcohol to an intoxicated person, then the provider is liable for damages for injuries or death caused by the intoxication. This is called "dram shop" liability, after an old name for bars. This liability applies not only to bars and restaurants, but also grocery stores and convenience stores if they sell alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons.

Dram shop cases are very difficult. If you have been injured or if a loved one has been killed because a bar irresponsibly served alcohol, then you need a lawyer experienced in dram shop cases. Call us today at 713-396-3964 or 1-800-594-4884 for your free consultation.

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