OR Case Update: Oregon Supreme Court: Dram Shop Statute Intended to Limit – Not Expand – Liability

From the desk of Jeff D. Eberhard: Approximately one year ago, we notified you of an important change to Oregon’s liquor liability law in the Oregon Court of Appeals’ decision in Deckard v. Bunch, 267 Or App 41 (2014). As soon as the Court of Appeals’ decision came down, my team and I started working immediately to overturn this case. Our firm’s efforts resulted in not only reversing the Court of Appeals’ decision, but also 30 years of cases that plaintiffs have been relying on to expand the liability of alcohol sellers and social hosts. Read on to see how the Oregon Supreme Court clarified liquor liability law after decades of confusion.

Claims Pointer: In this landmark liquor liability claims decision, the Oregon Supreme Court relied on legislative history prepared and presented by Smith Freed Eberhard to hold that Oregon’s liquor liability statute, ORS 471.565 does not create an independent cause of action, but instead that it limits common law negligence claims. Moreover, the Court agreed with our arguments by overruling Chartrand, a case which has resulted in nearly 30 years of common belief—by both plaintiff and many defense attorneys—that in motor vehicle accidents, negligence was not required to prevail on a liquor liability claim. What this case means going forward is that Plaintiffs will be required to prove that a patron was served while visibly intoxicated and that it was reasonably foreseeable that the person would drive after leaving the pub/restaurant/bar. More importantly, the Court held that the statute, ORS 471.565, requires that the plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the patron or guest was visibly intoxicated when served. This is a significant burden on the plaintiff’s ability to recover.

Deckard v. Bunch, in the Oregon Supreme Court, 358 Or 754 (March 10, 2016).

Casey Deckard was driving on Highway 101 when a highly intoxicated driver, Diana Bunch, crossed into his lane and collided head-on with his...

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