Florida Personal Injury Law: Alcohol Use as Evidence of Negligence

drunk.jpgThere is a reason why the following inquiry is a standard interrogatory for personal injury cases in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure:

Did you consume any alcoholic beverages or take any drugs or medications within twelve hours before the time of the incident described in the complaint? If so, state the type and amount of alcoholic beverage, drugs or medication which were consumed and when and where you consumed them.

While excessive alcohol consumption can support a claim for punitive damagessee this blog:, Special Considerations in Florida Motor Vehicle Crash Cases Involving Alcohol (DUI) — evidence of alcohol use, even short of “voluntary intoxication,” can be relevant to the issue of simple negligence. It’s application is not limited to vehicle accident cases.

The Florida Supreme Court decided long ago that evidence of a person being under the influence of intoxicants at the time of an automobile collision is admissible, on the theory that a driver so exhilarated is likely to be abnormally reckless. Taylor v. State, 46 So.2d 725 (Fla., 1950). It is valuable and useful to corroborate or render more likely, evidence that is doubtful or disputed. Smith v. State, 65 So.2d 303 (Fla., 1953).

A court may require expert testimony to assist the jury in understanding the evidence.

In one of our firm’s pending motor vehicle crash cases, where liability is at issue, we propounded the form interrogatory. The defendant driver admitted that she had eaten dinner at a Sushi restaurant shortly before the crash, but answered that she did not remember if she had consumed alcohol during the meal. We asked for credit card information so that we could subpoena her meal charges for evidence of alcohol consumption. She objected to this inquiry as being “irrelevant and harassing, and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” We have filed a Motion with the court to compel the defendant to provide the credit card information.

Due diligence in conducting discovery is important. In a contested case like the one described above, evidence of alcohol consumption before the crash can tip the scale.

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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.

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