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Robert E. CooperWhite Arnold & Dowd, Birmingham, Alabama

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New Trial for Voir Dire Insurance Question Denial

Saturday, November 24, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tom Jensen
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During voir dire in birth injury claim involving use of a vacuum extractor during labor and delivery, jury panel questioning was rushed due to the trial schedule. Patient's counsel yielded to defense counsel when the court stated it wished to proceed with the jury the following morning. When defense counsel was finished patient's counsel asked the court for permission to ask the insurance question, fitting it in between two others so as not to emphasize it. Trial court refused reasoning that greater prejudice confronted defendants by raising it that way, rather than not at all, and recognizing the insurer was small and was located "on the other side of the state." Defense verdict followed and on appeal patient challenged the ruling. Appeals court noted that the employment of an insurance question has become a staple of civil jury trial selection. The question generally encompasses whether any members of the panel or their families work for or have a financial interest in the named insurance company. Here the trial court had no discretion to deny asking of the question; denial of the same was unduly prejudicial as a matter of law. Eoff v. McDonald, 2018 WL 6061002 (Mo. App. Nov. 20, 2018). 

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