Playing the "pot" card against an innocent driver

Photo:  Animation still by Larry Tompkins, P.E.

Photo:  Animation still by Larry Tompkins, P.E.

Driving while high is now being used as a sword by the insurance companies of bad drivers who cause crashes.

Let's say you live in a state where pot is legal.  You get high on a Sunday evening with a group of friends in your own home.  On Thursday, you are driving down a road and someone runs a red light.  You had a green light.  The bad driver tells the officer that you look high.  The officer doesn't see anything unusual but asks you to take a blood test.  Carboxy-THC shows up.  You are ticketed for driving under the influence.  Until a prosecutor looks at the blood work and realizes there's no case.  At which point the charges are dropped.

This is not a fanciful scenario.

Once a person uses marijuana, THC (Tetrahydrocannibol) can stay in the blood stream for days if not longer.  However not all THC is the same.

The pharmacology of marijuana is described in terms of three chemicals:

1) THC, which is metabolized into

2) 11-hydroxy-THC, which is the metabolized into

3) carboxy-THC.

Only the first two chemicals - THC and 11-hydroxy-THC produce impairing effects on brain cognition.  The third chemical form - carboxy-THC is not psychoactive and not associated with impairment.

In a recent case, a van driver blew past a yield sign into an intersection.  At the same time, a car driven by a young man (Hopkins) with two passengers was already in the intersection.  Hopkins was on the arterial and had the right of way.  The van t-boned the car of friends.  Our client was one of the passengers in the car.  She was critically injured.

When the lawsuit was filed, the van driver's insurance company claimed that Hopkins was at fault for not reacting faster to the van having blown through the yield signed.  They claimed that he had THC in his blood and was driving high.  Hopkins said he had used marijuana a week before the crash and was not driving high.

Attached is the motion for summary judgment filed by Hopkins' attorney.  The plaintiff's lawyers joined in the motion.  The van driver's lawyers opposed it.   After a court hearing, the judge agreed that there was no evidence Hopkins was driving while high and that he was not at fault for the van having run the yield sign.  Hopkins was dismissed from the case.

Motion for Summary Judgment:  Hopkins' MSJ