Oregon Case Law Update: Court of Appeals Confirms Stance on Complicity Doctrine in Case Involving a Passenger Injured by Intoxicated Driver

Jeff Eberhard Managing Partner

Court of Appeals Confirms Stance on Complicity Doctrine in Case Involving a Passenger Injured by Intoxicated Driver

From the Desk of Jeff Eberhard: Recently, in Mason v. BCK Corporation, 292 Or App 580 (2018), the court held that an injured plaintiff could not recover against a bar because the plaintiff was unable to demonstrate that he did not “substantially contribute” to the driver’s intoxication. [See our prior Case Update on Mason here].  In this case, the court considers whether the personal representative of a deceased passenger can hold the bar liable for serving the intoxicated driver if the passenger and intoxicated driver spent several hours drinking and socializing together.  Our firm represented the defendant bar in both the Mason case and the case that is the subject of this update, Balzer v. The Roundup Pub.

Claims Pointer: In this case, the passenger, driven by his intoxicated friend, was killed in a car accident.  Prior to the accident, the two friends spent several hours socializing and drinking together.  The Oregon Court of Appeals relied on Mason, which for the first time, defined conduct that “substantially contributed” to the driver’s intoxication (Oregon’s liquor liability statute requires the plaintiff to show that he or she did not “substantially contribute” to the driver’s intoxication in order to prevail on a claim against the bar).  The court held that because the two friends spent several hours driving and socializing together and because Plaintiff could offer no evidence to show that the deceased passenger did not substantially contribute to the driver’s intoxication, the plaintiff could not prevail on a claim against the bar.

Balzer v. The Roundup Pub, 293 Or App 157 (2018).

Mitchell Johnson (“Johnson”) went to his long-time friend Byron Moore’s (“Moore”) house where they consumed one or two beers.  Afterward, the two went to Washington Street Steakhouse & Pub (“Washington Street”) where...

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