Moffitt v. Miller, 2023 Pa. Super. LEXIS 408, 2023 WL 6053027 (September 18, 2023) (Pellegrini, J.) Colleen Moffitt (Moffitt) appeals from the judgment entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (trial court) following a jury trial in this personal injury action filed against Chris Miller (Miller) arising from a motor vehicle accident. Moffitt challenges the trial court’s evidentiary rulings including its allowance of testimony regarding her alcohol consumption before the accident, the court’s decision not to issue several proposed jury instructions, as well as contending that the jury’s verdict is against the weight of the evidence. We affirm.
On August 5, 2018, at 1:15 a.m., Miller’s vehicle struck Moffitt as she attempted to cross East Lancaster Avenue (Route 30) in Downington on foot in the middle of the block as she walked home from a nearby bar. On March 4, 2019, Moffitt filed a complaint asserting one count of negligence seeking to recover damages for injuries and lost wages she allegedly sustained as a result of the accident. Emergency room records showed that Moffitt’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was .313% at the time of the incident. Prior to trial, motions in in limine were filed by both parties. The trial court denied Moffitt’s motion to exclude all references to her alcohol consumption but granted Miller’s motion in limine to preclude testimony from Moffitt’s liability expert concerning the presence of “unmarked crosswalks” at the location of the accident.
On June 2, 2022, the jury issued its verdict finding each party 50 percent causally negligent and awarding Moffitt a lump sum of $8,500 in damages.
It is well-settled that a blood alcohol level alone may not be admitted for the purpose of proving intoxication. There must be other evidence showing the actor’s conduct which suggests intoxication establishing an impairment function. See, e.g., Billow v. Farmers Trust Co., 438 Pa. 514, 266 A.2d 92, 93 (Pa. 1970); Fisher v. Dye, 386 Pa. 141, 125 A.2d 472 (Pa. 1956). In this case, the trial court applied Coughlin v. Massaquoi, 642 Pa. 212, 170 A.3d 399 (Pa. 2017), our Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement on the issue.
We discern no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision that evidence concerning Moffitt’s alcohol consumption was relevant and probative to the issue of causation in this case. Moffitt’s own testimony reflected that she began consuming alcohol during the afternoon leading up to the accident, that she continued drinking upon returning home, and then drank beer at a bar immediately before the incident. Dr. Dackis testified unequivocally that a .313% BAC level impaired her motor skills and sensory awareness. Given this evidence, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing BAC evidence to show that Moffitt was impaired when she crossed Lancaster Street.
We agree with the trial court’s conclusion that Dr. Dackis was qualified to testify regarding Moffitt’s blood alcohol level and how that level likely impacted her conduct on the night of the accident including her ability to cross the road safely. Dr. Dackis’ testimony reflects that he met the standard of “reasonable pretension to specialized knowledge” regarding the effects of alcohol use relative to Moffitt’s consumption to assist the jury in its factfinding.
Moffitt next contends the trial court erred by precluding testimony that the location of the accident was an “unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” Moffitt claims that failure to permit this testimony created the prejudicial inference that she was “jaywalking.”
After review of the record, we discern no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s decision to preclude Moffitt from constructing an argument that she was struck in an “unmarked crosswalk.” The record shows that Moffitt was crossing Lancaster Avenue mid-block, outside of any crosswalk, marked or otherwise.