Northwest Portland

Help sought to track down where accused drunken driver drank

Help sought to track down where accused drunken driver drank »Play Video
Police accuse Brent Warstler of running down two women in Old Town in January, killing one of them. The surviving woman's lawyer is asking the public for help in identifying which bars may have served Warstler too much alcohol.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A severely injured woman is suing the accused drunken driver who ran her down and killed her friend, and the woman’s lawyer is making a public appeal for help in their $3 million lawsuit.

Brandi Butner's lawyer, Scott Kocher, also wants to sue the bars he believes served the driver too much alcohol.

There's a hang-up, though. They don't know which bar or bars served the man alcohol before investigators say he ran a red light right at Northwest 5th and Everett in January and then smashed his truck into a taxi before veering into the two women on the sidewalk.

Kocher has a short window to figure it out. Since Butner survived the crash, Oregon law only gives her lawyer 180 days to file a lawsuit against whoever served the man.

On Jan 20, Butner and her friend, Rebecca Bray, were waiting for a designated driver to pick them up when Portland police say Brent Warstler ran them down. Bray died and Butner is still in a rehabilitation center while family cares for her 7-month-old son.

"We're asking people who know where Brent Warstler was drinking to come forward at this time," said Kocher. "We have reached out to a number of people, folks who haven't talked to us yet, and we're asking for them to talk to us now."

According to court records, Warstler's girlfriend was in the truck as well as two other friends.

Under Oregon law, a bar can be held liable for over serving a customer.

ORS 471.565 says the bar is "not liable for damages caused by intoxicated patrons ... unless (there's) clear and convincing evidence that the (bar) ... served ... alcoholic beverages ... while the patron ... was visibly intoxicated."

Families have succeeded in court with these kinds of lawsuits.

Three years ago the Shaddix family filed a lawsuit after their daughter, Krissy, and her friend were killed by a drunken driver. They settled for $1.3 million against the former owners of New Golden Star, a Gresham lounge, which was accused of over serving the driver who killed the young women.

This kind of lawsuit has been allowed for a long time. The law that says a person can sue a bar or restaurant for over serving has been on the books since 1979.

There's another lawsuit going on right now accusing a gas station in Sandy of selling an already intoxicated man alcohol before he got behind the wheel and killed another driver on Highway 26.