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Ervin v. Hosanna Ministry, Inc

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    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiffs in this matter were Jacqueline Ervin (Ms. Ervin) and Curtis Ervin (Plaintiffs). The Defendants in this matter were Hosanna Ministry Inc. and Obie Ponton (Defendants). Ms. Ervin was admitted into the care and custody of a facility operated by Hosanna Ministry, Inc., for treatment resulting from a drug/alcohol problem. While she was at that facility, Ms. Ervin was injured and the Plaintiffs brought a personal injury action. Defendants moved for dismissal, based on the fact that Ms. Ervin signed a disclaimer of liability. However, Plaintiffs countered, claiming lack of capacity regarding any agreements Ms. Ervin signed upon entering the facility.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Whether one can claim lack of mental capacity due to the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is a question of fact, to be determined by a jury.

    Facts. While being treated for a drug/alcohol problem at a facility owned by Defendant, Plaintiff sustained an injury and later sought to bring a personal injury action against Defendant. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, based on their contention that there was no genuine issue of material fact, due to the indemnity agreement; however, Plaintiff counter-argued that she lacked capacity when she signed said agreement, because she was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol when being checked into the facility.

    Issue. This case questions whether a normally lucid individual can claim lack of capacity due to the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

    Held. Motion for Summary Judgment Denied.
    The court found there were several issues of material fact and that, if plaintiff could prove lack of capacity due to substance abuse, the indemnity agreement would not stand.
    While proving lack of capacity due to a mental condition is fairly easy, proving lack of capacity due to substance abuse bears a higher burden of proof, in that Plaintiff must prove that she was under the influence of the questionable substances at the time she entered into the agreement. Regardless of her ability to prove this point, it is still a question of fact, which precludes the awarding of a Summary Judgment on behalf of defendant.

    Discussion. When taking substance abuse into consideration, mental incapacity is not as easy to prove. However, it is not impossible to prevail on such a claim.


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