Garmon v. Hagans; Contributory Negligence of Passenger

In Garmon v. Hagans (unpublished), decided on December 17, 2013, the Court of Appeals affirmed a jury finding that the Plaintiff-passenger was contributorily negligent, where he voluntarily rode with an impaired driver, whose impairment contributed to the accident.

In this case, the plaintiff (passenger) and defendant (driver) had been together most of the day and evening, during which they consumed a lot of alcohol. (Starting around noon and continuing into the evening.) On the way home in the early morning hours, there was an accident. (The opinion does not clearly describe the accident, but it appears that the defendant was traveling too fast and had a single-car accident.) At trial, the defendant testifeid, ““I wasdrinking and it affected my driving.”

The plaintiff argued that there was not sufficient evidence that the defendant was impaired, or that his impairment contributed to the accident. The Court noted the law as “Mere proof that a motorist involved in a collision was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time does not establish a causal connection between his condition and the collision.His condition must have caused him to violate a rule of the road and to operate his vehicle in a manner which was the proximate cause of the collision.” The court concluded that this was a “borderline case” in which the evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to find that the collision was caused by the driver’s impairment.

John Kirby has represented parties in cases involving allegations of impaired driving, including allegations that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent by voluntarily riding with an impaired driver.

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