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New Mexico Personal Injury Plaintiffs Win Motion to Exclude Evidence Concerning Consumption of Alcohol

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2020 | Personal Injury

By bringing a motion in limine a party to litigation can request, outside of the presence of the jury, that certain evidence be included or excluded at trial.  In a recent personal injury case, the plaintiffs won a motion in limine filed with the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.

In this recent case, the plaintiffs were seeking the exclusion of evidence concerning alleged consumption of nine to twelve light beers by the plaintiff who was driving the car that got into the accident at issue in the litigation.  One person was killed in that accident and others were injured.  The plaintiffs’ theory of the case was that the accident was caused by the blow-out of a left rear tire, and that it was not relevant that the plaintiff who had been driving the F-350 at the time of the accident.

The plaintiffs argued that evidence of beer consumption was not relevant, and should be excluded, because there was no evidence indicating that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident.  He had allegedly gone to work the morning of the accident, and the accident did not occur until about noon.

The defendant, a tire manufacturer, disagreed with the plaintiffs’ view of relevance.  The defendant proposed to introduce into evidence testimony that an attentive, unimpaired or non-drowsy driver should have been able to control the vehicle following the alleged tire blow-out, and thereby prevent a fatal roll over of the vehicle. The court understood the defendant wanted the jury to infer that the plaintiff had alcohol in his system at the time of the accident because he did not control the vehicle.

The court disagreed with the defendant’s approach, characterizing it as an invitation to the jury to speculate that the plaintiff was impaired at the time of the accident because he had been drinking the day before.  The court was focused on the plaintiffs’ theory of the case, which was products liability, and they explained that any evidence of alcohol use the day before the incident appeared to be irrelevant to any products liability issue or cause.

In the alternative, the court also considered whether the probative value of evidence of alcohol consumption the day before the accident outweighed its prejudicial value.  Under the Federal Rule of Evidence 403, a federal trial court can exclude evidence on grounds including unfair prejudice.  The court concluded that the plaintiffs would be unfairly prejudiced by the defendant’s introduction of evidence of alcohol consumption, and explained there was a risk that the jury would be inclined to speculate the plaintiff was intoxicated at the time of the accident although the defendant had no expert evidence or other evidence showing the plaintiff was intoxicated at that time.  Accordingly, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion in limine.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in an accident, you may be entitled to receive a monetary award for damages.  Being compensated monetarily when you are injured can help people and their loved ones recover out-of-pocket costs including medical bills and lost wages. To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your financial recovery, call New Mexico personal injury lawyer Matthew Vance. At the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C., we provide a free consultation and can be reached at 505-445-1604 or contact attorney Matthew Vance online.