Arnett & Arnett, PC
Intoxication As a Defense to Negligence
Intoxication is not a defense to negligence. A person who is intoxicated when he commits a negligent act will be held to the same standard as a person who is not intoxicated. The actions of an intoxicated person will not be judged by the standard of a reasonably prudent intoxicated person.
For example, a defendant works as a drawbridge operator. Unbeknownst to his employer, the defendant has a drinking problem and often drinks during working hours. After his seventh beer of the day, the defendant notices a ship approaching the drawbridge. The defendant opens the drawbridge a few seconds too late. The ship crashes into the drawbridge, injuring the ship’s crew. The crew files a personal injury action against the defendant. In the crew’s action, they will have to prove that the defendant negligently operated the drawbridge. In order to prove the defendant’s negligence, the crew must show that a reasonably prudent drawbridge operator would have opened the drawbridge earlier. The crew does not have to prove that a reasonably prudent, intoxicated drawbridge operator would have opened the drawbridge earlier because an intoxicated person is held to the same standard as a person who is not intoxicated.