Legal Memorandum: Intoxication and Negligence in MA

Issue: Under Massachusetts law, what role does a plaintiff’s intoxication play in negligence and proximate cause analyses?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Intoxication; Negligence; Proximate cause analyses
Jurisdiction: Massachusetts
Cited Cases: 421 N.E.2d 1217; 627 P.2d 623
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2000

Generally, intoxication does not serve as an excuse for negligence.  One who chooses to drink and subsequently becomes intoxicated, is held to the same “reasonable person” standard as sober individuals. See, e.g., O’Hanley v. Ninety-Nine, Inc., 12 Mass. App. Ct. 64, 421 N.E.2d 1217 (1981).  While some states, such as Alaska, have established a greater standard of care owed to intoxicated persons than to others, see, e.g., Wilson v. City of Kotzebue, 627 P.2d 623 (Alaska 1981), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has not established a similar rule on behalf of intoxicated persons.


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