EXCLUDING DISCLOSURE OF SETTLEMENTS TO THE JURY

In a recent decision from Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal, the issue and importance of excluding disclosure of settlement to the jury was raised. In Holmes v. Area Glass, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1622 (Fla. 1st DCA July 26, 2013), the Plaintiff sued Area Glass and State Farm for the negligence of Area Glass used in replacing the windshield at State Farm’s direction.

Prior to the trial, the Plaintiff settled with Area Glass and moved to trial against State Farm only. At trial, the Plaintiff submitted a proposed verdict form that did not include Area Glass in the caption. State Farm objected, arguing the caption of the case should not be changed stating that without Area Glass in the caption, the jury would believe that State Farm was Area Glass’ insurer, and that Area Glass was somehow insured or that State Farm was responsible for Area Glass’ negligence.

The Plaintiff, having already made it clear that State Farm was not Area Glass’s insured, argued that listing Area Glass on the verdict form would be counter to the rule excluding disclosure of settlements to the jury and that the jury would wonder why Area Glass was still in the caption. To the Plaintiff’s point, when the trial court denied the Plaintiff’s request a juror in the case returned a question asking why Area Glass was listed as a defendant on the verdict form. The trial court further muddied the waters by answering and telling the jury to draw its own conclusions.

The appellate court overturned the trial court’s ruling and clarified that there is no rule that a caption listed on a verdict form must be identical to the caption used on all pleadings and that there is no law that says the style can never be changed. The appellate court found that having Area Glass on the verdict form was in violation of the rule excluding disclosure of a settlement.

If you have suffered a personal injury, contact the attorneys at Givens Givens Sparks for a free consultation.

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