Oregon Case Law Update: Court of Appeals Provides Insight on the Complicity Doctrine in Liquor Liability Suits

Jeff Eberhard Managing Partner

Court of Appeals Enforces the Complicity Doctrine in Liquor Liability Suits: Holds Passenger May Not Sue Bar Claiming Over Service to Driver

From the Desk of Jeff Eberhard: Claims against bars, taverns and even social hosts come in several varieties, one of which occurs when an intoxicated driver is involved in an accident causing injuries to the passenger.  But if the passenger played a role in the driver’s intoxication, will the passenger have a claim against the bar, tavern or social host for serving the intoxicated driver? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: A common factual scenario encountered by bar and tavern owners is where friends go together or meet at a bar, drink together and at the end of the night, leave together, with one of the intoxicated friends driving and the other riding as a passenger.  In cases where the passenger is injured while traveling with the intoxicated driver and the injured passenger brings a claim against the bar or tavern, Oregon’s Liquor Liability Statute, ORS 471.565, requires the passenger to prove that they did not substantially contribute to the driver’s intoxication. Our firm represented the bar that served the alcohol.  The trial court granted our summary judgment motion.  The Oregon Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff failed to submit evidence to show that he did not substantially contribute to the driver’s intoxication, and confirmed that the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of our client.

Mason v. BCK Corporation, 292 Or App 580 (2018).

Plaintiff Mathew Mason (“Plaintiff”) was at BCK Corporation dba Duffy’s Irish Pub (“Duffy’s Irish Pub”) when he ran into a family friend, Jolene Mullenix (“Mullenix”).  Mullenix was with her fiancé, Hidaro, and the three of them bought drinks for each other, staying at Duffy’s Irish Pub from 9:00 p.m. until about 2:00 a.m.  During the course of the night, they consumed multiple rounds of drinks– perhaps as many as 10...

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