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    By: Ron Ponzoli, Chair, Religious Organizations Practice Group 

    WEST PALM BEACH, FL – October 31, 2019 – If a claimant suing a religious organization was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of an accident, in Florida, the claimant can be prohibited from recovering monetary damages. 

    Florida’s “Alcohol or Drug defense” statute provides that in any civil action, a claimant may not recover damages if at the time of injury the claimant was under the influence to the extent the claimant’s normal faculties were impaired, or the claimant had a blood or breath alcohol content level of 0.08 percent or higher. To get the benefit of the defense, it must also be shown that as a  result of the drugs or alcohol, the claimant was more than 50 percent at fault for his or her harm.

    This defense applies to automobile accidents, trip and falls, and all other civil bodily injury claims.  So long as there is some evidence the claimant was under the influence at the time of injury, a religious organization will be able to assert the defense. By way of example, the fact that claimant’s blood alcohol level, drawn five hours after an accident, detected no signs of alcohol and the claimant did not exhibit signs of impairment such as slurred speech,  the defense was still permitted to pursue the alcohol defense because the claimant  admitted to drinking prior to the accident and witnesses smelled alcohol on the claimant.

    The takeaway for religious organizations defending personal injury actions is the importance of fully investigating a claimant’s condition prior to an accident. Any indication of intoxication could dramatically change the outcome of the case.

    Remain informed of legal issues affecting all manners of religious organizations by visiting the Religious Organizations Law Blog.


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