Drunk Driver Kills One, Injures Four

Date: March 22, 2010
Location: Highway 221 near Michigan City NW, Salem, Oregon
Names: Alan J. Olson, Carleen Chenowith, Kamie Chenowith, Andrea Chenowith, Hannah Chenowith, David Don Pallett

Police took a drunk driver into custody on multiple charges March 22, 2010, after a three-vehicle crash killed one person and injured four, according to an Oregon State Police press release.

The crash took place around 7:30 PM on Highway 221 (Wallace Road NW), near Michigan City NW, two miles north of Salem, Oregon. David Don Pallett, 49, of Amity, was driving north when his truck crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a southbound car driven by Carleen Chenowith, 20, of McMinnville. The truck then crashed into a second car driven by Alan J. Olson, 58, of Salem, veering into the passenger side as Olson tried to maneuver his car out of the truck’s path.

The impact with Olson’s car pushed the car into the ditch. The truck came to a stop on top of the car. Olson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chenowith and her three passengers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and were taken to Salem Hospital. The passengers were Kamie Chenowith, 33; Hannah Chenowith, 5; and Andrea Chenowith, 4, all of McMinnville. Carleen Chenowith was treated and released, but the hospital did not provide information on the others.

Pallett, who was not injured in the crash, initially told troopers that he only had one beer. However, he failed the field sobriety tests, and troopers observed glassy, bloodshot eyes, droopy eyelids, a flushed face, slurred speech, an unsteady gait, slow hand movements, and a strong odor of alcohol, according to NewsRegister.com.

A blood alcohol test was administered, and results are pending.

Pallett was arrested and taken to Polk County Jail. According to the Statesman Journal, he was arraigned March 23 in Polk County Circuit Court on the following charges:

  • Manslaughter in the Second Degree
  • DUI
  • Reckless Driving
  • Assault in the Second Degree
  • Assault in the Fourth Degree (3 counts)
  • Recklessly Endangering Another Person (5 counts)

The manslaughter and second-degree assault charges are Class B felonies with mandatory-minimum prison terms under Measure 11. The other charges are Class A misdemeanors.

Judge Fred Avera set bail at $272,500, and Pallett has retained an attorney. He is due back in court April 1.

Pallett’s record shows a January 2008 arrest for DUII in Polk County. He entered a diversion program, and the charge was dismissed after he completed the program.

We send our sympathies to all the victims of this tragic accident, with special wishes to Olson’s family for its loss. We also want to send encouragement and prayers to all the Chenowiths, especially the two little children, and hope that all of you will recover completely from this truly unnecessary car crash. We are thinking of all of you.

In the wake of a tragedy like this, each person must deal with it in whatever way works best for them. We would never try to talk someone into taking legal action; that has to be your decision. But we do want to offer some helpful information.

When a drunk driver causes an injury accident in Oregon, there is a possibility of suing the person or bar who served the alcohol. This must be done correctly, and quickly. There are strict time limits for filing a lawsuit in Oregon, and where alcohol is involved, the limits get even stricter. A Dram Shop Notice must be sent to the server within 180 days of the incident, pursuant to ORS 471.565.

Why sue a bar for serving a person alcohol? Well, the bar must have done something. Bars are regulated strictly by the OLCC, and if they serve to minors, or serve to a person who was visibly intoxicated, they have violated regulations and they should be held responsible for that. But the rules only work if the bartenders are well-trained and supported. If anyone is at fault, it’s not going to be the clerks and bartenders – it’s going to be the owner. If an investigation finds that the owner of the bar did not train the bartenders properly, hired the cheapest people and then underpaid them, routinely told the bartenders to serve as much as possible to increase profits, faked bartender’s OLCC licensing tests, and routinely served minors, then a lawsuit could prevent another similar accident in the future. If there were honest, well-trained, hardworking bartenders and clerks who made a single honest mistake, then a lawsuit would do no good. But, the family at least gets to rest easy knowing that they investigated, and found out the truth of the matter.

We encourage people to educate themselves on the law of drunk driving in Oregon, and we provide free information to help you settle your lawsuit without an attorney. But when a drunk driver is involved, the law becomes very tricky. We can help answer your questions after a drunk driving crash. Please contact us.