OR Case Update: Alcohol and Violence: Is Saying “That’s Just the Alcohol Talking” Enough to Prevail?

From the desk of Jeffrey D. Eberhard: In a dram shop claim, the injured plaintiff sues the person or business who served alcohol to the person that harmed the plaintiff. In the following dram shop case, the Oregon Supreme Court answered the following important question: Is it always foreseeable that giving someone alcohol will make that person more violent?

Claims Pointer: The Oregon Supreme Court held that the “common knowledge” that intoxicated people have impaired judgment, is not enough for a bar, restaurant, or individual who served the alcohol to be liable for a violent injury caused by a customer. More specifically, evidence on the type of drinkers that become violent or history of violence at the bar or restaurant is required.

Chapman v. Mayfield, 358 Or 196 (November 13, 2015).

Jason Chapman and Richard Gilbertson (Plaintiffs) sued Carroll Mayfield (Mayfield) and the fraternal Order of the Eagles Gresham Aerie #2151 Gresham Oregon (the Eagles Lodge) after they were shot by Mayfield. On the night of the shooting, Mayfield went with a friend to the Eagles Lodge bar, where he consumed several beers and either a single or double shot of whiskey. Witnesses described Mayfield as “very polite, kind” and a “very nice man,” and also observed that he danced and had a good time at the Eagles Lodge. Unbeknownst to anyone at the Eagles Lodge, Mayfield was carrying a concealed handgun. After leaving the Eagles Lodge, Mayfield walked to another bar down the road, the Gresham Inn, where he was refused service. Mayfield then walked across the street to the Gresham Players Club, pulled his handgun from under his vest and fired multiple erratic shots into the building, striking and injuring Plaintiffs. Mayfield was arrested and a breath test revealed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of between 0.192% and 0.180%.

In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that the Eagles Lodge was liable because it negligently served Mayfield and that the Eagles Lodge “had reason to...

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