Bar Sued for $3.5M Over Fight, Brain Injury
Two Oregonian's injured in a bar fight are now seeking damages in a lawsuit against the bar.
Michael Ray Gaston and Timothy G. Reed were attacked by Shaun Edward Hartley in February. He was a patron at the Wichita Pub where the injuries occurred. He wasn't an employee but the fact that he drank at the bar that night gives the men the opportunity to bring suit against the pub.
The law recognizes a unique responsibility between those who serve alcohol and those who injure people after drinking.
Oregon, like most states, has a dram shop law that makes bar and liquor owners liable for over-serving patrons. If a licensed alcohol seller serves or otherwise provides alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, the seller can be liable for injuries caused by the drunk person.
This generally doesn't apply to people who serve alcohol in their homes, who most states call "social hosts."
The rationale is that it's easy for a professional server to foresee some kind of harm when giving alcohol to someone who's already drunk. The actual harm doesn't have to be foreseeable; it's enough that the risk of injury is increased.
Bartenders at Wichita Pub were giving away samples of Jack Daniels to Hartley and his brother even though the two were visibly intoxicated, according to a report by OregonLive.com.
Just because the alcohol was a free sample doesn't mean the bar is off the hook. Oregon's law punishes any provision of alcohol to visibly drunk people.
Generally, dram shop laws are used in drunk driving accidents when a bar or liquor store gives alcohol to a visibly drunk person who then gets behind the wheel. But the law isn't limited to DUI related injuries.
Hartley stabbed Gaston three times following a disagreement where Gaston told Hartley's brother to stop harassing his wife. Hartley then walked outside and asked Reed if he could borrow a cell phone. When Reed said no, Hartley hit him and knocked him unconscious.
Gaston and Reed claim that the pub knew Hartley was a danger when drunk. A few weeks prior to the bar fight he had gotten into a drunken confrontation with a bar employee, according to the report.
If that's true, it could certainly be evidence that the risk of harm was foreseeable.
As a result of the bar fight, Gaston had emergency open heart surgery and Reed suffers from a permanent brain injury. Their lawsuit seeks a combined $3.5 million in damages.
- Who's liable for injuries caused by inebriation? (Portland Business Journal)
- Social Host Liability (FindLaw)
- Dram Shop Law: Liability and the Alcohol Seller (FindLaw's Injured)
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