Injured California Driver Manages to Keep Out Evidence of Marijuana Use Because It Was Too Speculative

flatbed truckAfter you’ve been injured in a vehicle crash, and you’ve decided to sue to seek the compensation you deserve, you likely will face off against a strong opposition from the defense. The defense may seek to escape liability by attempting to depict your case as one in which you were actually the one who was negligent and at fault. To give yourself the best chance of success, you may need to make sure that potentially harmful evidence that is too speculative to be reliable and admissible is kept out of your trial, which is one of many areas in which a skilled and determined San Mateo injury attorney can help.

The plaintiff in one recent case was injured in a terrible crash along the Pacific Coast Highway in June 2010. A semi truck driver had, after resting in a parking area next to the southbound lanes, been crossing the southbound lanes to turn left and head northbound when the plaintiff’s minivan struck the semi’s flatbed trailer, which was still in the southbound lanes.

The crash was so massive that it took 45 minutes to extract the plaintiff from the minivan’s driver’s seat. He had a fracture of his left shoulder, and the bone was protruding through the skin.

After a trial, an appeal, and a retrial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The jury concluded that, while both drivers were negligent, the truck driver’s negligence was the sole cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The total damages award was in excess of $3.3 million. Within that total, the jury awarded an amount of future medical expenses to cover four future shoulder surgeries, at a cost of $161,750 per surgery.

The truck driver appealed, arguing that the amount of future medical expenses was excessive. Specifically, he argued that he should only be liable for paying for one future shoulder surgery, rather than four. He also argued that the trial judge improperly restricted his defense by disallowing some of the medical expert evidence that was intended to show that the plaintiff was impaired by marijuana at the time of the crash.

The appeals court ruled against the defendant on both aspects and upheld the trial court’s decision. With regard to the marijuana evidence issue, the appeals court agreed with the trial court that the evidence was too speculative. In any auto accident case, a defendant might try to use evidence that a plaintiff was impaired and that the plaintiff’s own impairment caused his injuries. In order to do that, though, the proposed evidence must be reliable.

In this case, the defense had only a blood test result showing that the plaintiff had THC in his system and a doctor’s testimony that the plaintiff exhibited “high blood pressure, rapid pulse, rapid respiratory rate, and memory loss” after the crash, all of which are symptoms of marijuana use. This evidence was not sufficiently reliable. THC can remain in a user’s system for days after the last marijuana use. The plaintiff had admitted using marijuana but stated he last used it more than 36 hours before the crash. As for the symptoms of hypertension, rapid pulse, rapid respiration, and memory loss, these are, in addition to symptoms of marijuana consumption, all symptoms of experiencing a major trauma like having been involved in a massive accident.

The appeals court also upheld the damages covering four surgeries. Unlike the defense’s marijuana evidence, the plaintiff’s proof regarding his future medical needs wasn’t speculative. The plaintiff had competent medical evidence that the first surgery would require inserting a metal ball into his shoulder socket and that, with use, the area would “wear down” and require revision surgeries every 15 years. That, according to the appeals court, was enough to justify awarding damages for not only the initial surgery but also the three subsequent revision surgeries.

For thorough advice and advocacy in your injury case, talk to the experienced San Mateo truck accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye & Fitting. Our attorneys have been helping injured people pursue their rights and obtain proper compensation for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Northern California Rear-End Accident Results in $2.9M Damages Award for Injured Plaintiff, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 14, 2017

How You Can Overcome the ‘Going and Coming’ Rule in Your California Auto Accident Case, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 19, 2017