top of page


Sleep Issues Not Serious Physical Injury in DWI Accident (PA)

March 31, 2017

Share to:

In <em><a href=";q=vetter+v.+miller&amp;hl=en&amp;as_sdt=6,31&amp;as_vis=1">Vetter v. Miller</a>, </em>the plaintiffs were driving home from a wedding, where apparently they both drink a fair amount of alcohol.  Plaintiff Vetter was chosen to be the driver, but had no memory of the events of the evening.  Plaintiff Jones, the passenger, said that Vetter became annoyed that defendant Miller was tailgating their car, so Vetter exited his vehicle to confront Miller.  Miller, alleging that Vetter "did not look right" attempted to flee but knocked the plaintiff down and dragged him with his vehicle. Responding paramedics noticed a smell of alcohol on Vetter, who was cited with DUI, driving with a suspended license and harassment, and he eventually pleaded guilty to criminal charges.
Despite their actions, Vetter and Jones sued Miller for negligence and recklessness, and Jones brought a claim against Miller for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant filed a motion for partial summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, arguing that Jones could not establish that she suffered serious bodily injuries as required under PA law. The court granted the motion, dismissing that claim. The case went forward, and  at trial the jury found plaintiff Vetter 74% negligent and awarded no damages.
On appeal, Jones contended that the trial court erred in dismissing the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. The Superior Court found that the trial court properly dismissed the claim, as the passenger had elected limited tort coverage on her driver’s insurance policy, and therefore had to establish a serious bodily injury, which meant a "serious impairment of a body function." The Court found that Jones's testimony that she suffered from sleep deprivation did not amount to a serious injury because she remained able to perform her full-time job, pursue a nursing degree and care for her son.
However, a new trial was awarded to Vetter, because although evidence of his intoxication was relevant, the appellate court found that evidence that Vetter pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with this incident ought to have been excluded.
Thanks to Alexandra Perry for her contribution to this post and please write to <a href="mailto:">Mike Bono </a>for more information.


bottom of page