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Smoking Pot Can’t Be Used to Discredit Plaintiff’s Case

July 29, 2015 | Posted In Personal Injury/Negligence - Personal Injury |

A tire company cannot introduce the fact that a driver smoked marijuana the night before an accident as part of their defense in a personal injury and defective product case, according to a recent ruling from a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey. The defendant, Cooper Tire and Rubber Company, is being sued by Edison man Raheel Malik, who was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed, claiming that the accident was caused by a defective tire produced in Cooper’s factories.

In 2009, Malik and four others were riding in a minivan driven by Abdul Rahman when the left rear tire popped, causing the van to roll over several times. Malik, who was in the back seat at the time, was ejected from the vehicle and suffered serious injuries.

An investigation revealed that the crash was caused when the tread separated from the left rear tire. The tire was manufactured by Cooper and Malik, in his lawsuit, alleged that the company manufactured the tire negligently and irresponsibly, as they did not use belt-edge gum strips, which are used to reduce tread separation and increase durability in tires.

Cooper’s Defense
In their defense, Cooper tried to introduce expert testimony to prove that Rahman, the driver, was under the influence of marijuana and unable to fully and safely stop the minivan at the time of the accident.

If he had not smoked marijuana, Cooper claimed, he would have been able to keep the car on the road and Malik would not have been injured. The company brought in an accident reconstructionist, who testified that after the tire popped, Rahman over-corrected by steering to the right and was unable to keep control of the car.

Cooper also attempted to provide physical evidence that Rahman had marijuana in his system. A laboratory test of Rahman’s urine, which was taken three hours after the accident, displayed high levels of a metabolite related to marijuana. Cooper also had a toxicologist and a psychiatrist testify that Rahman was “significantly impaired” while he was driving and that he made a mistake in trying to handle the car after the tire blew.

Measuring Marijuana Usage
Because it is so difficult to measure how marijuana impacts a person and determine what level of impairment is associated with that impact, it is often hard to prove that a person is “too high” to drive.

Unlike alcohol impairment, which can be measured through a breath sample and analyzed against the national standard of 0.08, marijuana usage is more subjective and may not necessarily be the same for every person. In this case, in addition to the inability to accurately gauge Rahman’s impairment levels, a significant amount of time had passed between Rahman taking the drug and driving the car.

U.S. District Judge William Walls ruled that because citing “impairment due to marijuana” would be likely to unnecessarily inflame the jury, Cooper could not introduce evidence regarding Rahman’s marijuana use in their defense.

A skilled New Jersey personal injury lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA is prepared to represent anyone who has been injured as a result of a company’s negligence. For more information, call an HCK lawyer today.

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