Dram Shop Laws and Social Host Liability for Alcohol-Related Accidents in Oregon

When an intoxicated person injures someone else in Oregon, can a third party be liable for providing the alcohol?

In Oregon, as in every state, if you have been injured through the negligence of an intoxicated person, you'll likely have a valid civil claim for damages against that individual. In some situations, you may also have a claim against the alcohol vendor or social host who provided alcohol to the intoxicated person.

In this article, we'll look at some key aspects of Oregon law regarding this kind of "dram shop" and "social host" liability after an alcohol-related accident.

Dram Shop Law in Oregon

Oregon Revised Statutes section 471.565 states that an injured person may hold an alcohol vendor liable after an alcohol-related accident if the injured person can prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that:

  • the vendor provided alcohol to the intoxicated person while that person was "visibly intoxicated," and
  • the injured person did not "substantially contribute" to the intoxicated person's state of intoxication.

An injured person might be found to have "substantially contributed" if they bought alcohol for the intoxicated person, encouraged the intoxicated person to buy or drink alcohol, or helped add to the person's intoxication in any other way, such as by providing money for the intoxicated person to buy alcohol.

Here is a situation in which Oregon's dram shop law might apply. Suppose that Dori stops at Tina's Tavern and has several drinks. While sitting at the bar, Dori strikes up a conversation with Pam, who is sitting on the bar stool next to her. Pam chats with Dori, but does not buy her any drinks or urge her to keep drinking. Eventually, Dori's speech becomes slurred and her movements become unsteady, but the bartender continues to serve her alcohol. As Dori tries to stand up from her bar stool, she stumbles and falls against Pam, knocking them both to the floor. Both Pam and Dori are injured in the accident.

Pam can bring a personal injury claim against Dori for causing the accident. Pam can also bring a dram shop claim against Tina's Tavern if she can establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that the tavern continued to serve alcohol to Dori even after Dori became "visibly intoxicated," and that Pam did not "substantially contribute" to Dori's intoxication. Remember that Oregon law prohibits Dori from bringing a dram shop claim against the bar, even if the bar served her while she was visibly intoxicated.

Note: The "visibly intoxicated" standard does not apply to situations where alcoholic beverages are served to a minor. If a person under age 21 causes an injury, the person who was injured may seek damages from the vendor that provided alcohol to the minor if the vendor failed to ask for ID or failed to spot a fake ID when a "reasonable person" would have done so in the same situation.

Social Host Liability in Oregon

The same statute that establishes dram shop liability in Oregon (that's Oregon Revised Statutes section 471.565) also applies to private hosts who serve alcohol at parties and other social events. So, if a person is injured by an intoxicated individual who was served alcohol at an event, the injured person may seek damages from the social host if he or she can prove that:

  • the intoxicated person was "visibly intoxicated" when served and the injured person did not "substantially contribute" to the intoxication, OR
  • the intoxicated person was a minor and the social host did not check or ID or spot a fake ID when a reasonable person would have done so.

Suppose that Dave, an 18-year-old student, goes to a party hosted by Howard. Howard doesn't think Dave looks old enough to be 21, but he allows Dave free access to the keg at the party anyway. Dave has several drinks, then gets in his car to drive home. On the way, he runs a stop sign and hits Paul, who is crossing the street. Paul is injured in the accident.

Paul may bring a social host liability claim against Howard if he can prove by clear and convincing evidence that Dave was under age 21 at the time of the accident and that a reasonable person, noticing that Dave did not look 21, would have asked him for ID. Dave may not bring a claim against Howard, whether or not Dave was "visibly intoxicated" when he left the party.

Time Limits and Damages in Oregon Alcohol-Related Accident Lawsuits

Oregon's statute of limitations limits the time available to file a dram shop or social host claim after an injury occurs. Under this law, these kinds of lawsuits must be filed in court within two years of the date of the accident, in most situations. Written notice must also be provided to the alcohol vendor or social host in a format that complies with Oregon law.

As with other kinds of personal injury cases, the business owner or social host's liability is expressed in damages, which are intended to compensate the injured person for his or her losses, including:

  • medical bills
  • lost wages if the injured person cannot work
  • property damage
  • value of household services or childcare the injured person could not perform, and
  • pain and suffering.

Oregon also allows an injured person to seek punitive damages against an alcohol vendor or social host when the offense is particularly egregious. (Note: If an injured person wins punitive damages from the intoxicated person who caused the accident, the intoxicated person may not "pass along" his or her share of the punitive damages to the vendor or social host.)

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