Court holds that prior heroin use does not disqualify woman from pursuing injury claim
Jessica Rockman was apparently a heroin addict. She was hurt in a one-car wreck that resulted when Casey Masak drove into a guard rail at nearly 90 miles per hour. Masak was killed in the collision, and Rockman argued that Masak's Estate should be responsible for Masak's share of fault in causing Rockman's injuries. Masak's insurer argued that since Rockman and Masak had both injected heroin just prior to the collision, Rockman's "wrongful conduct" should immunize Masak from suit.
The Court of Appeals examined the Supreme Court's existing precedent and ruled that the jury should hear the case and allocate fault between Rockman and Masak. Only if Rockman's fault was equal to or exceeded Masak's fault, would Rockman be ineligible to pursue a claim. Fault or "wrongful conduct" by an injury victim only serves as a complete bar to filing suit if the victim's cause of action arises expressly from the victim's own illegal act. While providing alcohol or a controlled substance may meet this requirement, it does not, automatically, where independent negligence is involved.