asked to review the trial court's ruling that plaintiff
Deborah Peralta's admission during pretrial discovery
should be given conclusive effect. Peralta admitted without
qualification to being "under the influence of
intoxicating liquors" at the time she was struck and
injured by a Washington State Patrol car. We hold that her
admission in this context was unambiguous and that the trial
court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled she was
bound by her admission. The jury instruction incorporating
this ruling was appropriate. Even if the meaning of
Peralta's admission was ambiguous, the trial court did
not abuse its discretion on holding Peralta to a reasonable
interpretation of the admission. As a result, we reverse the
Court of Appeals on this point. We do not address the other
evidentiary errors identified by the Court of Appeals, but
instead remand them to the Court of Appeals for a
determination of prejudice.
evening, plaintiff Peralta was drinking beer with a neighbor
in a downtown Vancouver tavern. Later in the evening, Peralta
rode with a friend to a party.
an argument at the party, Peralta left on foot, became lost,
and called her brother Jorge Peralta. She told him she had
been drinking and asked for a ride home.After several
unsuccessful efforts to meet her brother, Peralta mistook an
approaching car for her brother's car. She stepped in
front of the car, which was driven by Washington State Patrol
Sergeant Ryan Tanner. Sergeant Tanner did not see Peralta in
time to stop and struck her with his vehicle. Realizing that
he had struck someone, Sergeant Tanner called for backup and
medical assistance; responding officers indicated Peralta
smelled like alcohol when they were giving her assistance at
the scene of the accident. Peralta suffered serious injuries
and was hospitalized.
recover damages arising from her injuries after the accident,
Peralta sued the State and Washington State Patrol
(collectively WSP). In its answer, WSP pleaded an affirmative
defense under RCW 5.40.060 (the intoxication defense
statute), which provides a complete defense to an action for
damages for personal injury when (1) the person injured was
"under the influence of intoxicating liquor" at the
time of the accident, (2) the person's intoxication was a
proximate cause of his or her injuries, and (3) the person
injured was more than 50 percent at fault. The statute also
provides that the standard for proving an individual was
under the influence is the same standard established by RCW
46.61.502 (the DUI statute). Under the DUI statute, there are at
least two relevant ways of proving intoxication under these
facts: subsection (1)(a), a blood alcohol content of 0.08, or
subsection (1)(c), driving a vehicle while under the
influence of intoxicating liquors.
discovery, WSP sent Peralta a request to admit or deny that
"at the time of the collision that is the subject of
this lawsuit, Deborah Peralta was under the influence of
intoxicating liquors." Peralta responded,
"Plaintiff admits." At trial, WSP moved for a
ruling that Peralta's admission conclusively established
that she was under the influence of intoxicating liquors.
Peralta objected to the motion and stated that her admission
to being under the influence did not meet the standard for
being under the influence under the intoxication defense
statute. The trial court ultimately ruled that Peralta was
bound by her admission and that the fact that she was
intoxicated at the time of the injury was conclusively
trial court incorporated this ruling into jury instruction
20, which stated in relevant part:
To establish the defense that the person injured was under
the influence, the defendant has the burden of proving each
of the following propositions:
First, that the person injured was under the influence of
alcohol at the time of the occurrence causing the injury.
Plaintiff admits this element.
Clerk's Papers at 363 (emphasis added). The jury found
that Peralta's intoxication was a proximate cause of her
injuries and that she was more than 50 percent at fault. As a
result, the trial court dismissed Peralta's personal
injury claim with prejudice. Peralta appealed to the Court of
Appeals, Division Two.
Court of Appeals, Division Two, overturned the trial
court's decision on the effect of Peralta's
admission. See Peralta v. State, 191 Wn.App. 931,
949, 366 P.3d 45 (2015). The court concluded that
Peralta's admission did not satisfy the standard for
intoxication under the intoxication defense statute.
Id. at 948-49. It further concluded that this error
was harmful because the jury was not allowed to consider the
testimony of Peralta's friend that Peralta did not appear
intoxicated the night of the accident. Id. The Court
of Appeals also concluded that jury instruction 20 was error
and harmful for the same reasons. Id. at 949. The
Court of Appeals identified three other evidentiary errors
but did not decide whether these errors were prejudicial to
Peralta. Id. at 951-54.
Peralta and WSP appealed the Court of Appeals' decision.
Peralta appealed the Court of Appeals' decision to remand
for a new trial; Peralta argued she should have judgment for
her proportionate share of the damages found by the jury. We
denied Peralta's petition for review. WSP cross
petitioned to overturn the Court of Appeals'
determination that Peralta's admission did not satisfy
the required proof for intoxication under the intoxication
defense statute. This court granted review of WSP's cross
standard of review for evidentiary rulings made by the trial
court is abuse of discretion." City of Spokane v.
Neff, 152 Wn.2d 85, 91, 93 P.3d 158
(2004). We will reverse a trial court's
evidentiary ruling '"only when no reasonable person
would take the view adopted by the trial court.'"
State v. Ellis, 136 Wn.2d 498, 504, 963 P.2d 843
(1998) (quoting State v. Castellanos, 132 Wn.2d 94,
97, 935 P.2d 1353 (1997)).
recognize that the trial court's ruling establishing the
conclusive effect of Peralta's admission also made its
way into the jury instruction. We review jury instructions de
novo. See State v. Johnson, 180 Wn.2d 295, 301, 325
P.3d 135 (2014).
Admission Ruling Not an Abuse of Discretion
that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it
found that Peralta's admission satisfied the standard for
intoxication under the intoxication defense statute. In
context, the meaning of Peralta's admission was not
ambiguous. We thus hold that the trial court did not abuse
its discretion when it ruled that Peralta admitted she was
intoxicated for purposes ...