A civil suit filed earlier this month here in Portland is an excellent illustration of Oregon dram shop law and the ways it seeks to protect the public at large and accident victims in particular. According to The Oregonian, the husband of a woman who died in a Portland drunk driving accident last February is suing not only the alleged drunk driver but also two bars which, he claims, served the driver “while he was visibly intoxicated.”
The newspaper goes on to add that “the complaint accuses the bars of negligence for allowing him to drive, failing to determine whether he planned to drive and failing to alert authorities.”
This is practically the definition of a claim under the Oregon dram shop law – a statute that says a bar or alcohol retailer can be held legally responsibly for the damage done by a patron who clearly should not have been served in the first place.
This case is particularly tragic since it resulted in death. According to the newspaper, 32-year-old Tessa Conradi died when the defendant “crashed into her Kia Sportage near the intersection of Northeast Cully Boulevard and Northeast Portland Highway.” The suspect left the scene of the accident but was apprehended by police shortly thereafter. The driver, Jesse Lee Ream, “pleaded guilty last month to first degree manslaughter in the fatal crash. He also entered no contest pleas to drunken driving, failure to perform duties of a driver and other charges in connection with the crash,” The Oregonian reports.
The decision by Conradi’s widower to pursue an Oregon dram shop case against the two bars Ream allegedly visited in the hours immediately prior to the accident is a reminder that justice does not stop with – and is not necessarily fully served by – the criminal court system. Legal and moral accountability extends beyond the drunk man behind the wheel. A Portland drunk driving victim’s lawyer with expertise in dram shop cases can assist victims and their families in making sense of the court system and obtaining the justice they need and deserve.