Can You Sue Someone That Over-served a Drunk Driver?

Barbecues and parties are a Memorial Day ritual for many.  Inevitably people consume alcohol at these barbecues.  Sometimes, people get drunk and decide to drive.  Obviously this is a bad idea.  A crash is likely to occur, and the drunk driver will most likely be prosecuted and can be sued civilly for negligence and punitive damages.   However, many times that will not leave the injured party whole.   Additionally, simply suing the drunk driver does nothing to deter people from over-serving alcohol to intoxicated people.  

In Oregon the "Social Host Law" ORS 471.565 allows for injured people to recover for damages caused by intoxicated guests.  The law requires that the "social host" (think home-owner or person throwing the party)  served or provided the booze or beer to the drunk driver while the drunk was visibly intoxicated and the injured person did not contribute to the drunk's intoxication.  

The law applies to negligence and intentional acts.  Therefore, a fraternity may be liable if they over-serve a drunk college student and the drunk college student rapes a young woman.  The host of a party that gets out of hand and a drunk hits and assaults another person may be liable if the host of the party over-served the drunk prior to the assault. 

The law also expands the liability beyond simply the drunk driver.  This allows for an injured person to arguably tap into a home-owner's insurance policy or renter's insurance policy. This is important in catastrophic injury cases where the hospital bills are tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands of dollars).   The drunk's auto insurance policy may only be $25,000.00.  That is not enough if you have $50,000.00 in medical bills.   However, the social host may have a $300,000.00 home owner's insurance policy.  This would allow the injured person to attempt to collect $325,000.00 from the responsible parties.  

The law makes sense.  Basically don't be a jerk and put people in dangerous situations.   Over-serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated people is obviously a bad idea. It can be a very bad idea if you are aware the drunk is going to get rowdy or behind the wheel.  The law recognizes this.

The Social Host law is somewhat nuanced and has some short deadlines to file a notice with the social host.  Therefore, if you feel you were injured as a result of a person that over-served you, you should consult with an Oregon personal injury attorney as soon as possible.  Failure to give the other side notice may torpedo any potential social host liability. 

If you were injured by a drunk please call Portland Oregon Attorney Jeremiah Ross.   Ross Law LLC is more than happy to provide a free consultation to people that were injured by negligent and intentional acts of drunks.  Please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658 for the free personal injury consultation.  Please remember Oregon Personal Injury law is constantly changing.  Please do not rely on this post for legal advice, and consult with a lawyer to determine your rights in your personal injury case.