Involuntary Intoxication as a Civil Defense in Pennsylvania

March 29, 2019

Doylestown Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by a drunk driver, or by an intoxicated defendant in some other accident scenario, then you may have a right to sue and recover damages under Pennsylvania law.  When pursuing litigation, however, you may come into conflict with the defendant over the issue of “involuntary intoxication.”  Involuntary intoxication is an affirmative defense that may be asserted if the defendant was not actually responsible for their intoxication at the time of the accident, thus shielding them from civil liability.

When a defendant asserts the defense of involuntary intoxication, it’s important not to panic or become overwhelmed with the prospect of a more complicated lawsuit.  It is rather difficult for a defendant to successfully avoid liability on the basis of involuntary intoxication, in Pennsylvania or elsewhere.

Let’s take a closer look.

Involuntary Intoxication is a Complete Defense to Negligence

In Pennsylvania, the defendant can make use of the involuntary intoxication defense if they can show by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e., that it is more likely than not) that they became intoxicated through no fault of their own.  There are a variety of circumstances that can give rise to involuntary intoxication, including, but not necessarily limited to the following:

  • The defendant was forcibly intoxicated, either physically (by another party), or by duress, undue influence, fraud, or some other misconduct;
  • The defendant made an innocent mistake regarding the intoxicating product;
  • The defendant has a unique medical condition that makes them intoxicated with minimal consumption of the intoxicating substance at issue; and
  • Intoxication was unexpected and unforeseeable, given the product consumed.

For example, if the defendant purchased non-alcoholic beer, but was accidentally served alcoholic beer, then they could argue that they made an innocent mistake and became intoxicated through no fault of their own.  It’s important to note, however, that the defendant has the burden of proof.  In other words, they must be able to prove that their consumption was “involuntary” by introducing evidence that supports that assertion — doing so can be quite difficult.

Contact Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC for a Free Consultation

Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, our team of attorneys boasts several decades of experience representing plaintiffs in a variety of personal injury litigation, including that which centers around a conflict over the intoxication of the defendant (voluntary or involuntary).  We are well-acquainted with the procedures and challenges typical of such disputes and understand how to develop and execute a winning case strategy that will secure maximum available compensation, given the circumstances.

If you’d like to speak to an experienced Doylestown accident lawyer at our firm about your claims, call 215-348-2088 or send us a case evaluation form online to schedule a free and confidential consultation.  There is no obligation to continue with the process if that is what you ultimately decide.