Thursday, July 27, 2017

Latest Appellate Decision on Admissibility of Intoxication Evidence in an Auto Accident Matter

For the latest appellate analysis on the issue of admissibility of a Defendant’s alleged intoxication in a motor vehicle accident case, see Partlow v. Gray, No. 2017 Pa.Super. 187 (Pa. Super. June 15, 2017 Dubow, J., Solano, J., Ford Elliott, P.J.E.)(Op. by Dubow, J.).  

This matter arose out of an intersectional accident involving an allegedly intoxicated defendant who made a left hand turn across the decedent’s lane of travel.   The decedent’s estate filed a wrongful death and survival action.  

Prior to trial, the trial court resolved several Motions In Limine, including one involving the admissibility of the defendant driver’s consumption of alcohol and intoxication, and related expert testimony.  

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s admission of the evidence of the defendant’s alcohol consumption and intoxication.  

The Superior Court noted that evidence of a driver’s intoxication was generally relevant to reckless or careless driving allegations.   However, the court reaffirmed the law that evidence of consumption of alcohol or a BAC test, by themselves, should not be admitted to prove intoxication.

Here, the court found that the Plaintiff presented additional sufficient evidence of the defendant driver’s unfitness to drive, including the police officers’ observations of the defendant driver immediately after the accident, including the officers’ observation of the defendant's bloodshot and watery eyes and lethargic behavior after the accident.  

The court also noted that the plaintiff presented a BAC test results in conjunction with expert testimony regarding those results with respect to the defendant’s fitness to drive.   The plaintiff’s experts opined at trial that the defendant’s measured BAC after the accident indicated that the defendant’s BAC was still a .104 at the time of the accident.  

The Superior Court noted that, while each piece of the above evidence regarding the Defendant’s intoxication individually may not have been sufficient to render the evidence admissible, taken together, the evidence was sufficiently reliable and, therefore, admissible. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this Opinion may click this LINK.


Source:  “Digest of Recent Opinions,” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (July 11, 2017).  

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