Deckard v. BunchAnnotate this Case
At issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this matter was ORS 471.565(2), which provided an independent statutory right of action against a social host who served alcohol to a visibly intoxicated guest, who in turn caused injuries to a third party. Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident and sued the driver of the other vehicle, Defendant Diana Bunch, and the social host who served that driver, defendant Jeffrey King. Plaintiff asserted two claims against the social host: (1) for common-law negligence; and (2,at issue in this appeal) statutory liability. In the common-law negligence claim, plaintiff alleged that King was negligent in serving alcohol to his visibly intoxicated guest at his home when it was reasonably foreseeable that she would drive her vehicle and cause injury to persons on the roadway. In his statutory liability claim, plaintiff alleged that defendant was statutorily liable for serving alcohol to the guest in violation of ORS 471.565(2) Defendant filed a pretrial motion to dismiss plaintiff’s statutory liability claim for failure to allege ultimate facts sufficient to state a claim for relief. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, and the case was tried solely on the common-law negligence claim, resulting in a jury verdict for defendant. Plaintiff appealed, arguing it was error to dismiss the statutory liability claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that in enacting ORS 471.565(2), the legislature intended to impose statutory liability on social hosts for serving visibly intoxicated guests. The appellate court also rejected defendant’s argument that any error in dismissing the statutory liability claim was rendered harmless by the jury instructions that the trial court gave. The Supreme Court concluded that ORS 471.565(2) does not provide a statutory liability claim against alcohol providers that exists independently from a claim for common-law negligence. Therefore, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the circuit court.