Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Use + Impairment + Admissibility

When a case is tried, will evidence of the driver’s prior drug or alcohol use always be given to the jury?  The South Carolina Supreme Court gives an answer in the case of Kennedy v. Griffin and Dick Simon Trucking, Inc., 358 S.C. 122, 595 S.E.2d 248 (Ct. App. 2004).  In Kennedy, the plaintiff said he got hurt when he ran his car into the back of a stopped semi.  Weather was clear and plaintiff’s view was unobstructed.  A witness said that the plaintiff didn’t apply his brakes until the last minute.

Driving while impaired in Nevada, Nevada Trucking Lawyers, Mills & Associates, Nevada Trial Lawyer, Nevada Court System, Nevada Motor Transport Association, Nevada Appellate Lawyer 702-240-6060 Post accident blood tests showed that plaintiff had used marijuana.  Defendant capitalized on that fact and introduced the lab results at trial.  The outcome – – – plaintiff was found 70% negligent for the accident and precluded from recovering damages.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision to admit the evidence of Plaintiff’s lab results.  The Court of Appeals said that despite the fact that plaintiff tested positive for marijuana, the tests should not have been admitted.  Apparently, the quantity of marijuana was not measured and there was no evidence about when plaintiff had used the drug.  No marijuana was found in the plaintiff’s vehicle to suggest when he may have used the same recently.  The Court of Appeals decided that just because there was evidence in the plaintiff’s bloodstream of the prior use of marijuana, that did not translate into evidence of impairment at the time of the accident.  Admission of the lab evidence was therefore more prejudicial than probative. Consequently, the Court of Appeals rejected the lower court’s decision to admit the evidence and overturned the case because the positive test standing alone did not amount to a finding that the plaintiff had been driving under the influence.

In other words, this court focused on whether the driver was impaired at the time of the accident and not just on they question of whether there is evidence of prior use.  Therefore, not all instances of prior use of drugs or alcohol will be admitted to the jury.

How would the case have come out if the shoe were on the other foot and it was the truck driver that had the adverse lab tests?  It is hoped that the two drivers would be treated the same.  So if you are facing a situation where the truck driver’s post-accident tests are not clean, this is a case that might be helpful in arguing that the test results standing alone should not be given to the jury.

Mills & Associates Nevada Trucking Lawyers 702-240-6060