Case Update- Insurance Carrier Must Be Disclosed to Jury When Carrier Is A Party To The Proceedings


Dionne and Darryl Davis filed a lawsuit in Prince George's County alleging that Tania Martinez acted negligently, causing an automobile accident. Martinez tendered $20,000, representing her insurance policy's limits. The Davises underinsured (UIM) motorist policy (issued by State Farm), rejected the offer by Martinez in order to preserve its subrogation rights. The Davises later amended their complaint to include a count against State Farm for breach of contract in failing to pay UIM benefits. Martinez filed a motion in limine to prohibit any mention at trial of her insurance policy or of any reference to State Farm, and the trial court granted this motion. The jury found that Martinez was not negligent and the trial court denied the Davises motion for a new trial.

The Davises appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion to preclude any mention of State Farm to the jury, arguing that when an insurance carrier is a party to the proceedings, its existence cannot be kept from the jury. State Farm argued in response that the case law cited by the Davises only supports the disclosing the identity of a UIM carrier in a breach of contract case against the carrier alone. However, the court disagreed, stating that a party's liability in tort does not determine whether the presence of a UIM carrier should be disclosed to a jury. Rather, the court held the existence of a UIM carrier should not be hidden from a jury when it is a party to the proceedings, although the amount of coverage may be withheld unless the amount of UIM coverage is in controversy. Accordingly, it reversed the trial court's decision.

Davis, et al. v. Martinez, et al., No. 2605 September Term 2011 (Md. App. May 2, 2013).