Pennsylvania Superior Court Reaffirms the Law that Proof of Intoxication Need Not be Established Only by Eye Witness Testimony

The Pennsylvania Superior Court in Coughlin v. Ummu Massaquoi has reaffirmed that Pennsylvania law permits the introduction of expert testimony to prove intoxication even in the absence of any eye witness testimony that the individual showed signs of intoxication, i.e. slurred speech, loss of balance, staggering, odor of alcohol, etc.

Thomas Coughlin, while crossing the street, was struck and killed by the Defendant who was operating a motor vehicle. Mr. Coughlin’s surviving spouse brought a lawsuit against the driver of the automobile claiming that such driver was negligent in operating his motor vehicle and striking Mr. Coughlin.

A blood test of Mr. Coughlin taken immediately after the accident revealed a blood alcohol level of .313. (PA DUI Laws) The Defendant driver hired an expert who was willing to testify that the blood test results could be extrapolated to show that at the time of the accident, Mr. Coughlin was intoxicated. Defendant driver sought to introduce this expert testimony and the results of the blood test as evidence of Mr. Coughlin’s negligence and to absolve the driver.

There were no witnesses who could prove that Mr. Coughlin was staggering, had slurred speech, loss of balance, odor of alcohol or other signs of intoxication. Thus, Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the test results, without any corroborating evidence that Mr. Coughlin had visible signs of intoxication, were not admissible and neither was the testimony of the Defendant’s expert.

The Court disagreed. The Court ruled that the expert’s testimony was sufficient corroborating evidence of Mr. Coughlin’s intoxication at the time of the accident such that the blood test results were admissible. The Court held that a party may show that another party was intoxicated at the time of an accident through expert testimony even though there was no eye witness testimony to corroborate the party’s intoxication.

If you have been in an accident involving a drunk or intoxicated driver, please contact John J. Stanzione, Esq. of the law firm of Lamb McErlane, P.C. at 610-430-8000 or Mr. Stanzione has over 30 years of experience representing those injured in automobile, construction, work and other accidents.  The law firm of Lamb McErlane is a full service law firm with attorneys specializing in several legal disciplines such as business law, family law, personal injury law, criminal law, corporate transactions, social security disability, wills and trusts, estate planning and real estate law.