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Admissibility of Evidence of Intoxication.

June 15th, 2017

In Partlow v. Gray, 2017 WL 2590738, (June 15, 2017), the Superior Court held that intoxication evidence was admissible in a wrongful death motor vehicle accident case even though the Defendant had admitted negligence and the trial court had dismissed Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages.  The distinguishing factors were that Defendant was still asserting a comparative negligence claim.

Therefore, the Superior Court held that Defendant’s intoxication and fitness to drive were relevant to the issue of comparative negligence.   In addition, the Superior Court  distinguished this case from Roe v. Vinson, 158 A.3d 88, 2016 PA Super 305 (2016), where it held that evidence of a BAC that was below the legal limit was not admissible even though Plaintiff also offered expert relation back testimony.  (The court also noted that the expert in Roe was criticized for misstating facts of record).

The Superior Court noted that unlike Roe, the Plaintiff in Partlow offered testimony that the Defendant exhibited classic signs of intoxication.  The intoxication evidence in Partlow consisted of:  (1) a police officer’s testimony that Defendant had bloodshot, watery eyes, was lethargic, and appeared to be intoxicated;  (2) the laboratory test results taken two hours after the collision that showed a BAC that was below the legal limit; and (3) expert opinion that at the time of the collision, Defendant’s BAC would have been .104%.


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