Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Intoxication Evidence Precluded Where Evidence Lacking

In the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas case of Jacobs v. Bilbay, No. 11-00, 118 (C.P. Lycoming Jan. 25, 2013 Gray, J.), Judge Richard A. Gray addressed a Defendant's motion in limine in an auto accident case involving punitive damages claims based upon alleged intoxication of the Defendant and the Defendant's fleeing of the scene of the accident. 

The Defendant filed a motion in limine to preclude the Plaintiff from presenting evidence of alcohol because liability was admitted and there was no evidence of intoxication.

The trial court granted the motion in limine and precluded the Plaintiff from presenting evidence of Defendant's alleged intoxication and fleeing the scene of the collision .  The court reasoned that the mere pleading of intoxication and careless and/or reckless conduct does not mean that the Plaintiff can automatically introduce such evidence at trial. 

According to the Opinion, the only evidence in the record of possible intoxication was that:  (1) the defendant allegedly drank two beers before the collision,  (2) the accident occurred at 2 a.m., and (3) the plaintiff was scared. 

The court found that this evidence was insufficient proof of intoxication since there was no sufficient corroborating evidence to establish the requisite degree of intoxication.  For example, the plaintiff failed to offer blood alcohol evidence, witness testimony as to alcohol on breath, slurred speech, or stumbling, etc., with respect to the defendant.  

Judge Gray also ruled that mere evidence of the Defendant's fleeing of the scene of the accident did not create a jury issue on the punitive damages claim, in and of itself, as the Defendant allegedly did not realize that she had struck plaintiff. 

The court also noted that evidence of a Defendant's not stopping for an accident was not admissible for alleged impeachment purposes in this case since such evidence had little or no probative value and was extremely prejudicial where the Defendant admitted liability.

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg law office of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this case to my attention.

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