STINSON V. MATTINGLY
INSURANCE: UIM; INSURANCE CARRIER IDENTIFICATION AT TRIAL
PUBLISHED: REVERSING AND REMANDING; ABRAMSON
DATE RENDERED: 3/2/2007
CA reverses and remands this auto case for new trial, holding that the UIM carrier should have been identified to the jury as a party.
Plaintiff-appellee sued defendant-appellant in auto wreck; appellant-defendant counterclaimed and brought third-party complaints against plaintiff-appellee’s employer, in tort, and against his own insurer, KFB, for UIM coverage. Prior to trial, plaintiff-appellee successfully moved to exclude any reference to insurance. Defendant-appellant contends this violates Earle v. Cobb. The question at bar, however, is whether the same rule requiring the identification of the defendant UIM carrier applies when, as in this case, there has been no settlement with the alleged tortfeasor, who thus remains a principal party to the plaintiff’s suit. If the UIM carrier participates at trial, Kentucky law is clear that the carrier must be identified. However, KFB did not participate here.
CA holds that, although there was no Coots settlement here, the lack of settlement meant only that the tortfeasor remained potentially liable to Stinson along with KFB. KFB was no less a party than the UIM carrier in Earle. KFB was a bona fide real party in interest and under Earle the TC erred by failing to allow the jury to hear that the UIM carrier was a party. Reversal is required to ensure that our court system is not tainted by “deception” or “subterfuge.”
If Earle is truly, as it appears to be, the harbinger of a new era of disclosure regarding insurance in our courts, then to guard against this countervailing taint, trial judges may increasingly find it necessary to admonish the jury that they must completely disregard insurance when determining whether liability and damages have been proven. Such admonitions, perhaps, will remind the jury that they are fact finders and should not be swayed by who will pay the bill.
Digested by John Hamlet