It often goes without saying that alcohol consumption can seriously complicate
your life. Everyone has a slightly different reaction to being intoxicated,
but many drinkers behave in ways that they might not behave when sober.
From a legal perspective, alcohol consumption can complicate all types
of incidents ranging from
personal injury accidents to negligence to criminal activity. A California appellate court recently
ruled on a case that raises important questions about what duty of care
individuals owe to those who have injured themselves while intoxicated.
The lawsuit stems from a 2008 incident in which a man drunkenly fell off
of a cliff.
He had been attending a party earlier in the evening and had continued
to drink after being picked up by his roommate and a female friend. After
more drinking, the trio went to watch the sun rise on some cliffs above
the Sacramento River.
The plaintiff fell off the cliff and tumbled down onto some rocks below.
Rather than calling 911, the two defendants waded into the river to search
for him. They avoided calling police for fear of getting into trouble.
When they couldn’t find him, they went home and concocted a story
about the man committing suicide. They eventually decided to go to the
police, and rescuers found the man 30 minutes later.
The plaintiff sued his two drinking companions for $51 million, alleging
negligence and willful misconduct, among other allegations. A lower court
granted summary judgment to the female defendant. However, an appellate
court ruled that two of the plaintiff’s claims should be heard by
a jury because they are “triable issues of material fact.”
These issues include “whether [the woman] breached a duty owed to
[Plaintiff] by bringing him to the cliff side when she knew he was intoxicated
and waiting several hours to call 911 or otherwise summon aid after the
Cases like this are rarely ever “cut and dried.” There are
probably numerous arguments to be made for why all three individuals are
responsible for what happened and, conversely, why none of them are. Thankfully,
at least some of the issues presented by this lawsuit will have a chance
to be scrutinized by a jury.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "
Friends May Be Liable for Man's Drunken Cliff Fall," Jeff D. Gorman, July 14, 2014