Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Admissibility of BAC Evidence Requires Proof of Intoxication

In his recent February 9, 2015 Opinion in the case of Ritter v. Van Campen Motors, Inc., No. 12-00,379 (C.P. Lycoming Co. Feb. 9, 2015 Anderson, J.), Judge Dudley M. Anderson addressed Motions in Limine pertaining to DUI evidence filed by a Defendant in a motor vehicle accident case.  

According to the Opinion, this matter involved a motor vehicle accident during which each party claimed that the other driver crossed the centerline resulting in the fatal accident.   Accident reconstruction experts offered by each party came to opposite conclusions. 

The Defendant filed a Motion In Limine to preclude evidence that the Defendant driver had a BAC of .257 at the time of the accident as confirmed by an autopsy report, testimony that the Defendant had been drinking prior to driving that day, and evidence that there was beer in the Defendant’s vehicle at the time of the accident.  The Defendant contended that the BAC evidence was inadmissible absent proof of intoxication. 

Judge Anderson noted that, while the court agreed with the principle argument presented by the defense, the court found that the defense argument did not apply as there was indeed proof of intoxication in the record.

For example, in the autopsy report, an expert forensic pathologist concluded that the Defendant was “markedly” intoxicated at the time of the accident.   In a supplemental report, the pathologist reiterated this opinion of intoxication and noted the mental effects that would result from such intoxication.  

Accordingly, the court found that the evidence of intoxication presented was more than sufficient to support the evidence of consumption of alcohol which the defense sought to preclude.  

The Defendant filed an additional motion preclude the supplemental report of the forensic pathologist on the basis that it was submitted outside the discovery deadline and given that the opinion of the expert was allegedly beyond the scope of that pathologist’s expertise.

The court confirmed that, with respect to the latter portion of this argument, the Plaintiffs had agreed not to use the objected to portion of the report which was allegedly outside the scope of the expert’s expertise.  

With regard to the timeliness of the report, the court noted that the Plaintiff submitted a supplemental report of the pathologist in response to the Defendant’s Motion In Limine to exclude evidence of alcohol consumption.   Given that the supplemental report only addressed the issue of intoxication and further explained the statements made by the pathologist in his first report, Judge Anderson felt that it was not necessary to exclude the report on the basis of timing.   The court opined that the Defendant had enough notice with the first report as to the pathologist’s opinion on the issue of intoxication such that the defense had sufficient time to seek a contrary opinion if they wished.  

Overall, the defense Motions In Limine were denied.  

 
Anyone wishing to review a copy of this Opinion may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.




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