Admit Liability And Keep Out DUI?

If you find yourself defending a case where your client (Defendant in a civil case) was a drunk driver, first off, should that be admissible if you admit faulty (liability but not damages) on your client’s behalf?  In Maryland, their Court of Appeals had this issue before them [Full opinion: http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2012/2039s10.pdf]

I have had a similar experience when I admitted fault for a Defendant in a fairly minor automobile accident.  The case was tried in Dorchester County, with a verdict for the Defendant.  Thereafter, the trial judge granted a new trial to the Plaintiff’s attorney to correct a purported error by the court that it should have admitted into evidence that the Defendant had been drinking.  [Only evidence that there could have been as to my client drinking was his deposition testimony that he went home from work, got a shower, fixed dinner for himself, and then went to play with his league in some games of pool, where he had a whole two (2) beers.]  I had argued (unsuccessfully) that the jury had found no actual damages (and thus the verdict for the Defendant) with the drinking aspect not being relevant as to causation (as liability was admitted) and was not as to damages either, as punitive damages require a finding of actual damages, which had not occurred.  I lost the argument, and had to try the case again.  Thankfully, the result was the same for me and for my client:  A verdict for the Defendant.

This September 2010 Maryland opinion has some more difficult facts, as you can see.  The Defendant driver, who was driving his wife’s car, had a history of substance abuse, a criminal record, and a record of driving violations.  Even with his running a red traffic light, his drinking, and indeed his being drunk, was kept out of evidence and affirmed on appeal, as this Maryland legal blogger notes:      http://www.marylandinjurylawyerblog.com/2012/04/defendant_was_a_drunk_driver_s.html    It is always good to see how other courts address some of the thorny problems that you might face in the courtroom.  So, defense counsel–read this article and the opinion, and learn about some ways to win!

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About MaxLaw843

Max is an attorney and a member of Grimball & Cabaniss, LLC where he has practiced litigation since 1987, concentrating in construction, personal injury, and business litigation. He also has handled quite a number of appellate cases. In the community, he is past president of the Scottish Society of Charleston, Inc. and is the Chair of Church Council of Bethel United Methodist Church in downtown Charleston.
This entry was posted in Litigation and the law and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Admit Liability And Keep Out DUI?

  1. Ron Miller says:

    Max, thanks for mentioning my blog in your post.

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