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Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Verdict in Negligence Case Because Insurance Information Was Introduced at Trial

There’s a secret that insurance companies don’t want you to know. In almost all Cape Cod negligence cases, one or both parties have insurance of some type. For example, in a car accident case, the defendant most likely has a policy of motor vehicle accident liability insurance, and his or her defense is being paid for by that insurance company. If a verdict is entered against him or her, it is the insurance company – not the defendant – that will actually pay out the money for the judgment.

Insurance companies want you to believe this legal fiction because they believe that, if a juror is aware that the verdict will be paid by an insurance company instead of a real person, the juror will be more likely to find in the plaintiff’s favor – and more likely to award a more sizable verdict if they don’t think the defendant will be paying the verdict out of his or her own pocket.

Sometimes, an insurance company may actually be the plaintiff in a lawsuit and still want its identity to be kept secret. For example, if an insurance company pays out a claim, it may then file a subrogation claim against the person or persons who caused the loss. Even then, the insurance company doesn’t want you to know of its involvement in the case because of the fear that such knowledge would taint the outcome against it.

Facts of the Case

In a recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case, the “real” plaintiff was an insurance company that paid out on a fire insurance claim filed by its insured after the insured’s house caught fire during a renovation project. The insurance company began its subrogation litigation against the defendant renovation contractors (whose negligence allegedly caused the fire that resulted in the claim), but it later substituted the insured as the plaintiff. The matter was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in the defendants’ favor. The insurance company appealed.

Decision of the Appellate Tribunal

The reviewing court reversed and remanded, holding that the trial court’s decision to allow evidence before the jury concerning the true identity of the plaintiff – the insurance company, not the insured – was a clear error in judgment. Rather than base the decision on a valid evidentiary need, the judge had expressed a legally irrelevant concern that the jury “would think that the insured was out for the entire loss.” In the appellate court’s view, the judge’s decision to “broadly allow matters of insurance” to be considered as part of the evidence at trial, and to let it be known to the jury that the real plaintiff was the insurance company, fell outside the range of “reasonable alternatives” for handling the situation.

Speak to a Cape Cod Negligence Lawyer

Insurance companies do not like paying claims, and they are not above manipulating the legal system to avoid doing so whenever they can. If you’ve been hurt because of someone else’s careless behavior or neglect, you need an experienced legal advocate on your side. For a free consultation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664.

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