Thursday, May 23, 2013

What's In a Name?

              On May 2, 2013, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland filed a reported opinion in Davis, et vir. v. Martinez, et al., No. 2605 (September Term 2011). This opinion intends to reiterate the majority holding of Farley v. Allstate Ins. Co., 355 Md. 34 (1999), and to clarify when a jury is allowed to hear that an insurance company is a named party to a case.

            Generally, a party, their representatives, and their attorneys cannot mention “insurance” during a personal injury trial, as it is grounds for a possible mistrial if the jury hears such statements. The reasoning behind this rule is that once a jury knows that there is an insurance policy to pay a possible judgment, a jury is influenced to rule in favor of a plaintiff and/or award more monetary damages against the insurance company than the jury would against an individual or a company.

            The Davis v. Martinez opinion holds that a jury can not only hear the name of the insurance company when they are a named party to the case, whether as UM, UIM, breach of contract, or any other action, but the jury is ENTITLED to hear each party’s name, absent limited exceptions. Unless an insurance company can show an invasion of privacy, social stigma or a threat of physical harm, then the insurance company must be identified to the jury. These limited exceptions are nearly impossible to prove
            In deciding this case, the Court of Special Appeals expressly rejected the notion that the possibility of “adverse economic consequences” should limit naming an insurance company as a party to the case. So, what’s in a name? In Maryland, if you are an insurance company that is a named party to a suit, it now means a jury will hear who you are, which attorney is representing you, and what expert(s) you have hired to assist in the defense of your case. 


Article Contributed by Derrick Dye

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