DUII Victim' Family Sue Alcohol Servers in Portland Wrongful Death Claim

Posted on Dec 03, 2013

The children of a pedestrian killed in a hit and run drunk driving accident 2012 have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jeld-Wen Field and the Marathon Taverna for serving the drunk driver prior to a hit and run fatal accident. In addition to claims against the alcohol servers, the representatives of the estate of the deceased pedestrian are also making claims against the driver, and her companions.

The driver, Ashley Chavez, was leaving a soccer match, when she struck the pedestrian, who was crossing West Burnside Street in Portland within a crosswalk. The driver left the scene of the collision, and enlisted friends and family to cover up the incident. This case involves different legal theories against the different defendants.

The first claim against the alcohol servers is known as a "dram shop" case. This claim is permitted under the theory of common law negligence, as well as a statute that provides for a claim against a restaurant or other server of alcohol. Under the statute, the restaurant or tavern can be held responsible if the plaintiff can show that the restaraunt or tavern served the drunk driver while "visibly intoxicated." Visible intoxication is a higher level of impairment then "under the influence." Typically, a plaintiff must show visible intoxication through witness testimony, and in certain cases, expert witnesses like pathologists or toxicologists. This kind of claim presents challenges.

The claims against the driver and her companions includes a claim for "intentional infliction of severe emotional distress." The complaint alleges that the drunk driver knew about the collision, and in the weeks following the fatal accident, ignored public pleas from surviving family members asking responsible parties to come forward. This claim requires proof that the defendant acted in a manner that far exceeded the bounds of "socially tolerable conduct," and that this behavior caused severe emotional distress. The drunk driver's criminal conviction for second-degree manslaughter, drunken driving, and hit and run driving may prevent the defendants from denying these allegations, or at least some of the elements of this claim.

Other potential issues involve allocation of damages between the responsible parties. The statute governing allocation of responsibility among several defendants raises complex questions, and the inclusion of the drunk driver and her companions in this claim will probably allow a jury to assess responsibility between all involved parties.