The Frist Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the passing references to defendants’ insurance coverage in this traffic accident case did not warrant setting aside plaintiff’s verdict:
Plaintiff sustained injuries … , when a livery cab in which he was a passenger collided with an SUV driven by defendant Williams. During direct examination by plaintiff’s counsel and cross-examination by Williams’s counsel, no objection was raised when Williams testified that she spoke to her “insurance company” immediately after the accident. On cross-examination, when Williams stated that she “might have asked [codefendant Agyemang] for his insurance information,” Agyemang’s counsel moved to strike. The court did not respond, and counsel made no further objection. On redirect examination, when plaintiff’s counsel asked Williams what she had done with videos of the accident, Williams replied, “I thought I sent everything to Geico.” …
Evidence that a defendant carries liability insurance is generally inadmissible due to its potential for prejudice, as a jury’s awareness of insurance coverage might make it easier for it to render an adverse verdict against the defendant … . A passing reference to insurance, however, does not necessarily warrant reversal … . Two of the insurance references at issue were elicited by defense counsel, from his own client, and counsel lodged no objection to the reference elicited by plaintiff’s counsel. The record indicates no intention on plaintiff’s part to prompt such information … .Gbadehan v Williams, 2022 NY Slip Op 04703, First Dept 7-26-22
Practice Point: Passing references to defendants’ insurance coverage in this traffic accident case did not warrant setting aside plaintiffs’ verdict.