Even as police investigate the death last week of a 33-year-old man outside a Northeast Portland strip club the circumstances surrounding the incident have raised serious questions about how well the club was handling its security arrangements – questions that could eventually expose the club to an Oregon wrongful death claim.
As The Oregonian reported last week, the man “collapsed on the sidewalk outside the club and died from a single gunshot wound to the head.” A 21-year-old woman was also injured in the Portland shooting incident and was treated at an area hospital.
“The homicide marked the second fatal shooting at the location in two years. An inspector from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has launched an investigation with Portland police to see if alcohol service played any role in the shooting,” the newspaper notes, citing a spokeswoman for the commission.
At the most basic level it is essential that a niteclub – or any other place of business – offer its customers a safe environment. This applies to security in and around the facility as much as it does to ensuring that customers do not slip and fall while walking across a restaurant’s dining room. However, when the business in question serves alcohol and is a strip club – an environment known to attract sometimes unsavory patrons – that duty to protect the clientele increases significantly.
From a legal standpoint, it is especially important to note that while the fatal shooting took place outside the club, it was the final act in a series of events that began inside. “The shooting stemmed from an argument that began inside the club,” The Oregonian reports, “and then continued outside after a bouncer asked the group to leave… once the dispute moved outside around 2:25 a.m., some punches were thrown and the man pulled out a gun.” Police are still searching for a suspect in the shooting.
Oregon’s dram shop laws require businesses dealing in alcohol to be aware of who they are selling to and holds them potentially responsible for damage done with alcohol purchased from their business. While we usually think of dram shop actions in the context of drunk driving, the same principle is also potentially at work here, pending the outcome of the Liquor Commission’s investigation into what role alcohol may have played in the Portland man’s death.
Similarly, the club’s previous history as the site of a shooting incident should have served as a reminder to the owners that they have an obligation to keep their customers safe around the business as well as inside it. From a Portland wrongful death attorney’s perspective, the fact that the bouncer got the troublemakers out the front door does not end the club’s potential involvement with, and responsibility for, the incident, particularly in light of the earlier shooting incident. Along these lines it could be significant in terms of the club’s responsibility that witnesses quoted by the newspaper say the bouncer was outside at the time of the shooting. This leads us to ask whether he had the ability to do anything to stop the shooting as it unfolded moments after he ejected the group of troublemakers from the club.