Rule 411 Liability insurance. Evidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon the issue whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully. This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of insurance against liability when offered for another purpose, such as proof of agency, ownership, or control, or bias or prejudice of a witness. [L 1980, c 164, pt of §1; gen ch 1985]
RULE 411 COMMENTARY
This rule is identical with Fed. R. Evid. 411. The virtual unanimity of judicial rejection of evidence that a party is or is not insured against liability is soundly based on both legal and policy considerations. Foremost among these is the question of relevance. The fact that a party to an action does or does not carry liability insurance provides no logical basis for an inference of negligence or lack of negligence. Of equal concern is the danger that knowledge of the existence or the lack of liability insurance coverage might bias the jurors and influence them to make a decision on irrelevant and improper grounds. See Carr v. Kinney, 41 H. 166, 176 (1955); Gilliam v. Gerhardt, 34 H. 466 (1938).
Where relevant evidence of witness' potential bias was elicited at trial, trial court properly balanced the prejudice concerns of defendant with the relevance and probative value of liability insurance evidence to reveal witness' potential bias; thus, trial court did not abuse its discretion in limiting evidence of bias, interest or motive with due regard for rule 403. 106 H. 298 (App.), 104 P.3d 336 (2004).
Last modified: October 27, 2016