Trial Issue: Avoid Inflammatory Comments in Suit Against Insurer

Closing argument is an important part of trial and projecting images or statements in a powerpoint presentation in conjunction with oral argument is a common and oftentimes effective approach. (For more on closing argument, click here.)

However, just because you are in a lawsuit against an insurer does not mean you get to indiscriminately argue or comment during closing argument to the jury that your insurer outright refused to own up to its responsibility to its insured (you).   Making this direct argument or comment to the jury would serve no other purpose than to inflame the jury and cater to their assumed prejudice against an insurance copy. Such prejudicial comments or arguments may likely result in a trial court or appellate court granting an insurer’s motion for a new trial.

By way of example, in State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Gold, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D257a (Fla. 4th DCA 2016), a trial concerning damages associated with uninsured motorist coverage, the insured’s counsel during closing showed a powerpoint. The powerpoint projected to the jury read that the insurer refused to take responsibility for the debt it owed to its insured forcing the insured to bring the insurer to trial. The insured’s counsel also commented that the insurer is not going to take responsibility for the damages until it is forced to do so with the jury’s verdict. Finally, at the end of the insured’s counsel’s closing, a powerpoint slide was displayed that read the insured has done the right thing, has the insurer.

The Fourth District held such visual and verbal comments and argument were highly prejudicial warranting a new trial since they “painted a clear picture in the jury’s minds of a[n] [insurance] company breaking an obligation rather than a company simply attempting to determine actual damages attributable to the accident.” Gold, supra.

More than likely, the insured’s counsel could have painted the same picture without including such inflammatory comments or projecting potentially inflammatory statements against the insurer in the powerpoint.  

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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