Fleming v. Dionisio
A jury can reasonably find that a driver is reckless as a result of evidence that the driver allegedly operated at an excessive speed, crossed the center line and collided with a motorcyclist while intoxicated. Allegedly, the plaintiffs' decedent was driving a motorcycle and passed away after being struck. The owner of the motor vehicle agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle the plaintiffs' suit. The defendant driver moved for summary judgment and argued that the release of the owner also released the driver, because the owner was the principal and the driver was the agent. The court denied the driver's motion. The driver moved for a directed verdict. In April 2013, a jury found that the defendant driver was negligent and reckless. The driver moved to set aside and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Ample evidence existed of statutory and common-law recklessness. Evidence was introduced about the driver's alleged drinking, lack of sleep, working a full day and drinking. No question existed about whether the defendant driver was intoxicated. At one point, the defendant driver allegedly provided a urine sample and started to move the container to his mouth, as he apparently contemplated drinking his own urine, in an effort to hide the evidence. "Defendant's attempted consumption, or consideration of consumption, of his own urine," wrote the court, "was probative of his consciousness of guilt." The jury could have concluded that the defendant driver operated at an excessive speed, crossed the center line and collided with the motorcyclist. The jury reasonably could have concluded that the defendant driver was reckless. "Defendant's admitted violation of §14-227a," wrote the court, "creates an almost insuperable hurdle." The statute provides, "A person commits the offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or both if such person operates a motor vehicle (1) while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or both, or (2) while such person has an elevated blood alcohol content." The defendant did not meet his burden to prove he was entitled to judgment, and the court denied the defendant's motion for judgment.