DUII victims sue former Horseshoe Saloon owners
The estate of a drunk-driving fatality victim and another man severely injured in the same incident are suing the former owners of a Prineville bar for $2.15 million.
Janette Leader Hill is representing the estate of Stephan Leader-Bowles, a passenger in a vehicle driven by an intoxicated Justin Bittick. Leader-Bowles died in an Oct. 21, 2017, crash in southwest Prineville. Hill is also representing Alex Shaver, who sustained serious injuries in the wreck.
A complaint for wrongful death and personal injuries filed in Crook County Circuit Court on Aug. 9, 2019, claims that Cooler Bar, LLC, which owned the Horseshoe Saloon at the time of the crash, overserved Bittick, who later got behind the wheel.
The complaint states that during the course of the evening and early morning, he was served many alcoholic beverages and though he was "visibly intoxicated," the bar continued to serve him "when it knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that (he) might be operating a motor vehicle when he was not able to do so in a safe manner."
Bittick later left the bar with five other people, including Leader-Bowles, Shaver and Caleb Williams. According to law enforcement reports, Leader-Bowles had initially agreed to drive Bittick's vehicle because of how intoxicated Bittick appeared. But when Leader-Bowles missed the turn to Bittick's house, Bittick demanded he pull over and be allowed to drive the rest of the way.
As Bittick got behind the wheel, all four passengers became extremely fearful for their safety when he stated he was going to drive his vehicle 100 miles per hour and then quickly accelerated. A collision reconstructionist estimated the vehicle was driving at least 58 miles per hour when Bittick failed to navigate a turn and left the road. The vehicle swerved and then rolled almost 300 feet before coming to a rest on the hood of the car.
A blood draw from the hospital and later tested by Oregon State Police forensic scientists determined that Bittick's blood alcohol concentration when admitted to the hospital was 0.16, which is twice the legal limit of .08 in the state of Oregon. Bittick's urine also tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine.
According to the complaint, Leader-Bowles' estate suffered $500,000 in economic damages and another $750,000 in noneconomic damages. Shaver has incurred $200,000 in medical expenses and will lose $200,000 due to his diminished earning capacity, the complaint went on to state, and is entitled to recover noneconomic damages of $500,000.
"Shaver sustained fractures and soft tissue injuries to his neck and back and generalized trauma throughout his body," the complaint states, later adding that he has suffered stiffness, tightness, and loss of range of motion in his neck, shoulders, back, hips and extremities. "In addition to the physical pain, he is suffering from "anxiety, worry, frustration and depression."
Bittick was sentenced to 20 years in prison in July 2019 after being convicted on two counts of first-degree manslaughter, two counts of third-degree assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants and numerous other misdemeanor charges.
In January 2019, while it was still under the ownership of Cooler Bar, LLC, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission required Horseshoe Saloon to surrender its full on-premises sales license due to a history of serious and persistent problems. Such problems included violence and fights, as well as serving visibly intoxicated customers.
At the time of the sanctions, Cooler Bar, LLC, had already put the bar up for sale, and in March 2019, Cody Suing and Christina Powell bought the bar and have renovated it. They were able to obtain a liquor license, and the bar reopened under a new name, Horseshoe Tavern, on Nov. 1.
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