Cannizzaro v. Marinyak: On Alcohol-Related Car Accidents

Our North Carolina car accident lawyers understand that alcohol-related car accidents can result in complex litigation.

Carcrash.jpgIn Janine Cannizzaro v. Stephan Marinyak Et. Al, the at-fault driver was attempting to pass the victim’s vehicle when he allegedly collided with her, causing significant personal injury. According to court documents, the accident resulted in a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and loss of a leg.

The state police conducted an investigation of the car accident and determined that the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. It was alleged by police that the at-fault driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .19, which is more than two times the legal limit.

In North Carolina, as is the case across the nation, the legal limit for a DUI is .08. To put this in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published a table of what a driver can expect to happen to them at various BAC levels. At .08 muscle control becomes difficult, the driver will begin to experience vision problems, slower reaction time, and difficulty performing two tasks at the same time. This is known as having a problem with your divided attention.

With a BAC of .15, the driver should expect to experience a significant loss of muscle control, loss of hearing acuity, vomiting, slurred speech, trouble balancing, and other such symptoms. Beyond .15, drinkers can expect serious complications including breathing difficulty, central nervous system failure, and even death.

In Cannizzaro, the at-fault driver was a plasterer who had performed work at a home. After work that day, he consumed a considerable amount of alcohol at the home before leaving. The evidence also showed that this worker, along with others, regularly drank at their employer’s house before leaving for the day. However, it was also established that the homeowner never furnished alcohol to the workers and had actually instructed the job foreman that employees were not to drink at the home. The employer was not at the house the day of the alcohol-related car accident.

There is no question that this car accident involved a drunk driver, and the important legal question at hand is whether the employer was liable for injuries to the victim because she owned the home and employed the worker who was the at-fault driver.

As discussed in other blog entries, in a negligence case, a plaintiff must owe a duty or care to the defendant and must breach that duty of care. The duty of care is to protect foreseeable people or property from foreseeable harm. However, unless you are statutorily or contractually responsible for the safety of another person, or a supervisor of someone with a duty of care, you generally do not owe anyone a duty of care under our legal system.

In order for the supervisor to be liable for a car accident caused by his or her employee, the employee must be working within the scope of his or her employment at the time of the accident.

In Cannizzaro, the Supreme Court held that, because the homeowner did not furnish the alcohol to the worker and had actually instructed him not to drink at the home, she owed no duty of care to the car accident victim. The employee could obviously still be liable for any injuries caused.

Contact the Carolina car accident lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Cannizzaro v. Marinyak, July 1, 2014, Connecticut Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:

NC Pedestrian Death Blamed on Intoxicated Motorist, June 28, 2014, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog

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