Articles Posted in Drunk Driving Accidents

In all Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff must prove certain facts before they will be entitled to receive compensation for their injuries. The specific elements that must be proven depend largely on the type of case, but some elements are almost universally required across all Florida personal injury cases.

Desert HighwayOne of the most common – and most contested – elements in a Florida personal injury case is the element of causation. Simply stated, the element of causation requires that a plaintiff prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of their injuries. While this sounds simple in theory, a recent case illustrates how establishing causation may not be as straightforward as it initially seems.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle on the highway. When he rounded a curve, he approached another accident without warning, and he was unable to safely stop in time to avoid an accident. He ended up sustaining serious injuries as a result of the motorcycle accident.

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In a recent case, a state appellate court considered whether a company could be held liable after an employee caused an accident in a company car while driving drunk. According to the facts as laid out in the court’s opinion, the employee received permission to use a company car on a weekend to move a mattress into a new home, even though this was a violation of company policy. The employee drank several alcoholic drinks on the day he borrowed the car and then collided with the plaintiff’s car.

Passed Out DrunkThe plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the employee and also brought a claim against the company for negligent entrustment. A trial court first heard the case and granted summary judgment to the company on the negligent entrustment claim. It concluded the employer did not know the employee had a pattern of reckless driving, since the employer only knew the employee had one prior DUI conviction and was not aware he had additional DUI convictions.

The plaintiff appealed the decision. He argued summary judgment was improper because the court should have considered whether the company had a duty to investigate the employee’s driving background more thoroughly. The appeals court agreed. It noted that when the company hired the employee, he listed a 1990 conviction for possession of cocaine, but he omitted multiple prior DUI convictions. However, the employee said he told the company about his history of drugs and alcohol, and he also told the company his license was reinstated in 2010 after it was suspended for a DUI conviction. The company did a background investigation of the employee before hiring him. The investigation showed a clean driving history, but it only showed infractions for the previous three years, and his federal criminal history did not show any convictions.

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The death of a man in Key West earlier this month should serve the public as a sad reminder of the dangers of operating any vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The accident, which was reported by a local news source, occurred on October 14 and resulted in the death of a 69-year-old man who was aboard the vessel that capsized. According to details released by local police, the cause of death was most likely drowning, although all of the occupants on board the craft claimed to be too intoxicated to remember what happened and were unable to report details of what happened to the police.

Intoxication Cannot Be Used as a Defense to Most Civil Accusations of Wrongdoing

Although police have reported that all of the surviving men who were on board the boat when it capsized were too drunk to remember the details of the crash, it is possible that they are using their intoxication as an excuse not to cooperate in the investigation. This may be because the mBoaten are fearful of criminal charges being filed based on the incident. In the event a criminal or civil case is pursued against any party involved, the intoxication of whoever was responsible will not serve as an excuse.

Under Florida law, intoxication cannot generally be used to defend against allegations that a person had the required mental state to commit a tort. In most personal injury cases, the plaintiff is required to prove that the defendant was negligent. A defendant cannot claim that they were intoxicated and therefore not negligent. In fact, proving intoxication may actually satisfy one or more elements of the tort the plaintiff is seeking to establish.

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The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently released an opinion affirming a district court’s ruling that a plaintiffs’ lawsuit against a restaurant regarding the DUI-related death of their family member could proceed. The defendant had argued that the plaintiffs submitted an insufficient affidavit to make a claim against a provider of alcoholic beverages, but both courts disagreed with the defendant’s arguments, and the case will continue to be heard.

Wine BottlesPlaintiffs’ Family Member Dies after Allegedly Being Served an Excessive Amount of Alcohol by the Defendant

According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, their family member died in a single-car DUI accident after he had spent hours at a restaurant and bar operated by the defendant. The plaintiffs claim that an employee of the defendant repeatedly served the driver alcoholic beverages, knowing that he was extremely intoxicated and that he would be driving home. The claim, made under a state law known as the Dram Shop Act, is allowed against third parties who knowingly serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron who later causes an injury or death while driving drunk. Several states have various forms of dram shop laws, which have been enacted to discourage dangerous serving practices at restaurants and bars across the country.

The Defendant’s Request to Dismiss the Case Is Rejected

Once the plaintiffs’ case was filed, the defendants asked the court to dismiss it, arguing that an affidavit attached to a Dram Shop Act claim must be based on personal knowledge rather than simply information and belief. Both the district court and the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that an affidavit based on knowledge and belief is sufficient to prevent the claim from being dismissed, and any irregularities or discrepancies in the facts can be decided by a judge or jury at a later point in the case. Based on the rulings, the plaintiffs’ claim will be allowed to proceed toward a trial or settlement.

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