Trials are supposed to be on the issues of the case without distraction or prejudice from unrelated matters. This principle has given rise in Florida courts to longstanding jurisprudence that the mention of liability insurance in liability cases is strictly prohibited — exception: when the insured party opens the door. The principle, founded on the idea that knowing of insurance will lead jurors to be more liberal — “The long-standing purpose of excluding improper references [to] a defendant’s insurance coverage in civil proceedings is to preclude jurors from affixing liability where none otherwise exists or to arrive at excessive amounts [of damages] through sympathy for the injured party with the thought that the burden would not have to be borne by the defendant.” Melara v. Cicione, 712 So. 2d 429, 431 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998) (citing Carls Mkts., Inc. v. Meyer, 69 So. 2d 789, 793 (Fla. 1953)). — is all well and good except when it bumps against the practical realities of actual trials.
In personal injury cases, the defendant usually has liability insurance. The defense lawyers are paid by the insurance companies as are the experts testifying for the defense side.
For reliably giving testimony damaging to plaintiffs, many of the experts are paid millions of dollars a year by the insurance companies. While these doctors can be cross-examined to an extent about their earnings as expert witnesses, the jurors are not allowed to learn the full truth, which is that the money is coming directly from insurance companies. Judges generally allow questioning as to how much an expert makes from “defense interests,” but any mention of insurance usually leads to a mistrial and sanctions. Making matters worse is that the defense lawyers and experts make it difficult to discover actual financial information for transparent cross examination.
Most judges have a sign above their courtroom bench which reads, “We Who Labor Here Seek Only the Truth.” While it is unlikely that the rule prohibiting the injection of insurance coverage into a trial will ever change, the courts must be liberal in allowing evidence which demonstrates a potential basis for the expert’s testimony: Greed.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.
While prompt resolution of your legal matter is our goal, our approach is fundamentally different. Our clients are “people” and not “cases” or “files.” We take the time to build a relationship with our clients, realizing that only through meaningful interaction can we best serve their needs. In this manner, we have been able to best help those requiring legal representation.