Tavern Over Serves Customer

Resulting in death of local woman

Violating Oregon’s alcohol service laws leads to multiple fatality crash

A local woman, mother of a four year old daughter, was killed by a drunk driver that had been overserved at a Springfield strip club tavern.  On an evening in may, the mother was driving on Interstate 105 freeway with her boyfriend and daughter. Coming the other direction was a drunk driver who had been over served alcohol after already becoming visibly intoxicated at the tavern.

After leaving the tavern, the drunk got into his vehicle, and drove erratically at a high rate of speed.  He was driving so fast that he lost control, crossed over the median, and crashed head-on into the car the local woman was driving.

Drunk Driver’s car crash causes painful death of young mother 

The mother did not die instantly.  After the crash, she was mumbling, making incomprehensible verbal noises, and was unable to control her airway.  The paramedics intubated and bagged her while she was taken on a backboard in full C-spine precautions to the hospital Emergency Room.

At the hospital, it was found that she had suffered multiple life-threatening injuries.

A chest x-ray showed obvious rib fractures and a hemothorax on the left, and a right-sided pneumothorax.  A CT scan showed multiple traumatic injuries, including a depressed skull fracture with bone fragments extruding into the brain and significant pneumocephalus anterior to the frontal lobes.  She had a linear fracture extending down through the frontal sinus. Her pelvis was severely fractured, and her spleen, pancreas, and liver were damaged.

She was taken to the operating room in a heroic attempt to stop the hemorrhaging to her internal organs and try to save her life.  Her abdomen was opened, her liver was packed off, and her spleen was removed. The spleen was severely contused and lacerated, and the liver had multiple lacerations.

Unfortunately, the surgeons and trauma team were unable to stabilize and maintain her blood pressure, which dropped several times in the operating room due to her severe injuries.  Despite several attempts at resuscitation, she died from significant blood loss and the multiple traumatic injuries she suffered as a result of the tavern’s over serving its drunken customer.  She was then just 26 years old.

Family and community lost a wonderful young woman

The family was devastated by the loss.  The deceased woman was smart, liked school, and had always been a good student.  She also wrote poetry. She did well academically in high school, and before the birth of her daughter,  had been attending Lane Community College. She loved working with kids and wanted to be a grade school teacher.  After her child was born, she decided to take some time off to raise and take care of her daughter before resuming her classes at LCC.

According to her family and friends, she worked exceptionally well with kids, and kids adored her.  Her daughter went to Head Start pre-school. They liked her so much and recognized how easily she interacted with the kids that they wanted her to stay and work there.  She declined because she wanted to go back to school and get her teaching degree.

Tamera was a caretaker and caregiver.  She loved to clean, and cleaned for and after everyone in her family.  Tamera always made sure her sister Jenny’s room was clean. She did everyone’s laundry because she liked to do so, and made sure everyone had clean towels.  Tamera did Jenny’s hair for her.

Legal work to help the surviving family members

This case illustrates a number of legal issues that can come up in drunk driving cases.

First, there may be more than one responsible party.  The drunk driver is the obvious immediate cause, but the strip club tavern was also complicit in the death because it chose to violate Oregon laws that are intended to protect us from exactly this kind of unnecessary harm.  At some point the drunk’s judgment is so impaired that we count on safety rules to prevent the alcohol server from pouring gasoline on the fire. Servers are required by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to learn the signs of visible intoxication, and to cut off customers who are visibly intoxicated.  A copy of the OLCC’s “50 signs of Visible Intoxication” can be found at https://www.oregon.gov/olcc/docs/publications/50_signs_visible_intoxication.pdf

Second, because a tavern always has an economic incentive to sell more alcohol, enforcing the safety rules applicable to alcohol servers is critical to public safety. But many people do not realize that Oregon law has special notice requirements that in practice serve to protect negligent taverns and other alcohol servers.  Current Oregon statutes (ORS 471.565) generally requires that a special notice be given to the server within 180 days of an injury or within one year of the death (assuming the person making the claim discovers or reasonably should have discovered the existence of such a claim within those times). Those notice time requirements are much shorter than the normal statutes of limitations for personal injury or death claims.

Third, in this case there were several people who died, and another injured, in the same horrendous crash.  There was only a certain amount of financial resources available for all of the people involved. Attorneys for the different families agreed to a joint mediation in which a distribution of the all the available funds that was as fair as possible was agreed upon.

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