Paralyzed Drunk Drive Can’t Sue Restaurant

5246784-2400x1600A 24-year-old drunken driver who was paralyzed below the neck when she crashed into another car as she drove the wrong way down Interstate 5 suffered another blow in court this week: The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled she can’t sue the Southwest Portland restaurant that served her drinks.

The ruling comes on top of another Court of Appeals decision that went against Ashley Schutz last fall.

The court found then that Schutz wasn’t entitled to worker’s compensation from SAIF, the state-chartered worker’s insurance company, because her catastrophic injuries didn’t arise out of her employment even though she claimed she became drunk during a work-related function.

In 2010, Schutz, now 28, filed an $18.7 million lawsuit against La Costita, claiming the Mexican restaurant on Southwest Barbur Boulevard served her so much alcohol that she lost her ability to make safe decisions. She also faulted the restaurant for failing to call her a cab.

Schutz’s suit claims that on Dec. 12, 2008, she felt pressured to accompany her boss and two other co-workers from O’Brien Constructors to the restaurant because she was worried about keeping her job as an office worker and didn’t want her boss to think she didn’t like him. After four hours of drinking, she drove off in her 2001 BMW about 9 p.m., according to her suit. At Southwest River Parkway and Harbor Drive, she entered an exit ramp to northbound I-5 and crashed into an Acura. Her blood-alcohol level was .24 percent — three times the legal limit for driving.

A passenger in the Acura suffered minor injuries, but Schutz broke more than a dozen bones. Among them were her C4 and C5 vertebrae, making her a quadriplegic. Schutz was convicted of drunken driving and fourth degree assault, and sentenced to two days in jail and one year of probation. Her medical bills and therapy at the time of the 2010 filing had reached about $900,000, with another $5 million in future care costs expected.

Even though the restaurant is now removed from her suit, Schutz is still seeking millions in Multnomah County Circuit Court from the remaining defendants: O’Brien Constructors and her former boss. She claims her boss bought her so much alcohol that she lost her ability to stop drinking. A trial date has not been set.

Schutz’s suit is extremely rare. Attorneys say it’s almost unheard of for drunken drivers to sue Oregon bars or restaurants for injuries they suffered. Although still rare, it’s more common for people to sue when they’re hit by a drunken driver.

Oregon lawmakers, however, were prepared for a case like Schutz’s. This week’s Court of Appeals opinion cites a law passed in 2001 in response to a man who sued a Coos Bay restaurant for selling him so many drinks that he passed out and tumbled down a staircase, badly injuring himself.

The law bans customers — who voluntarily drink — from collecting money from bars and restaurants when they hurt themselves as a result. In Schutz’s case, the Court of Appeals determined that that law applies because despite her claims that she didn’t voluntarily drink, she in fact did. Schutz’s attorney didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. Mark Scheer, the Portland attorney for the restaurant, praised the decision.

“The statute is very clear that if you drink and drive and have an accident because you drink and drive, you are not allowed to bring a lawsuit against the entity that served you alcohol,” Scheer said. In 2011, Multnomah County Circuit Judge David Rees, who originally dismissed La Costita as a defendant, awarded the restaurant nearly $6,000 for its costs — the bulk of it legal fees. Schutz hasn’t paid. And the restaurant hasn’t sought to collect that money.

“This is a very terrible and unfortunate accident,” Scheer said. “Our sympathy and condolences go out to Ms. Schutz.” After the crash, Schutz moved to California, where she is working on her recovery, according to news accounts. She can been seen in a 2011 photo, posted online by the Carlsbad, Calif.-based Project Walk, taking a step with the assistance of a walker. A 2012 YouTube video shows her using her arms to scoot along a bench and into a wheelchair.

Back

What Clients Say About Patrice & Associates

  • Hospitality Recruiter Helps Find Me a Job!

    Chris Giles was very helpful throughout this whole process. First he helped me get my resume polished to send off, he was very patient with me during this. I was very busy with my job search and interviews, but he always made sure to follow up if I didn't get something back to him and was always patient with me. Once we had my resume updated he got it sent off and set up my interviews, he was very helpful in coaching me and making sure I was prepared for the interview. Chris was always there to answer any questions I had and touched base frequently as we were waiting to hear back about things certain things. If I hadn't heard back from one of the hiring departments he would contact them and I would hear from them later that day. Now after getting hired and starting the training program he checks in with me weekly to see how things are going and provides a listening ear if I need to vent about anything. He has been very encouraging and has helped me be more confident going through this hiring  process. Thank you Chris!   Charissa Hahn     Have a Hospitality Recruitment Specialist work for you for FREE Hospitality Recruiter Helps Find Me a Job!
  • I would like to thank Frank Rondeau for leading me through all the steps required to land  a great job opportunity. Frank took the time to ask questions about my career goals and personal plans to create a personal resume, based on my career and work experience, in order to connect me with a great job fit for myself- and for my future employer. The end result was getting my interview process handled, and giving me appropriate advice on how to handle the interview for it to be successful... and it sure was. Thank you Frank and Patrice and Associates for helping me get started on this exciting next chapter of my life! -Elaine Garcia   Started on this exciting next chapter of my life!
  • Hospitality Recruiter Can Help You Find a Job!

    Karl was the best asset in securing my new position. He was there coaching and teaching me every step of the way. I have been working in the food industry for 20+ years and this is the first time I have used a recruiter. I have been on both ends of the hiring process and Karl has helped to know what people are looking for and what I should be looking for when hiring new employees. I look forward to meeting Karl and shaking his hand. If needed I would seek Karl out again!         Mahmoud Elkhyati         Need help with your resume – Have a Recruitment Specialist help you for FREE       Hospitality Recruiter Can Help You Find a Job!
  • Hospitality Recruitment Works!

    My interactions with Mr. Richard were professional. He was very accommodating to my wants in needs when it came to the company I was looking to become a part of. I had tried myself to obtain a position with this company, but I was not able to do so on my own. With Richard's help I was able to land the position.  He kept me in the loop when it came to every interview that I had from beginning to end and kept me very upbeat and positive about the experience. I believe this is how a head hunter or recruiter should perform when dealing with clients very professional and had integrity in everything that he did.     Albert Jones     Hospitality Recruitment matches YOUR skills with the perfect job Hospitality Recruitment Works!
  • Hospitality Recruiters Are Here to Help

    Daniel was a great help to me on my job search. From the first time I was contacted by him I felt he was here not only to help the company find the right candidate but he was there to make sure I was right for the position.  Daniel is very persistent when he is working with you.  He knows that time is of the essence and he helps you adhere to a very strict timeline to be successful.  Daniel is there for you when you are feeling unsure and is always available to discuss just about anything.  He has a wealth of FOH & BOH knowledge and that really put me at ease because I have not met many recruiters with FOH & BOH experience. Talking to someone who has been where you have been really puts you at ease!  I am very appreciative that I had the chance to work with Daniel on this occasion.  I am thankful he was understanding, attentive, communicative, and seems to generally care about you as a person and a perspective candidate! Katherine Woods         Career Coaches that help you for FREE Hospitality Recruiters Are Here to Help