You Now Know: The Real Party in Interest

Juries are only allowed to know certain things. The judge serves as gatekeeper of what evidence the jury should know. Whether insurance exists is almost never disclosed to the jury.

The rule is called the “real party in interest” rule. If I sue Adam and Adam has a million dollar insurance policy with Aetna, I can only refer to Adam in the pleadings, in the courtroom and in the jury instructions. To mention Aetna would be an error which could result in a mistrial.

The psychology behind the real party in interest rule is that there should be no prejudice to the defendant, because the jury would assume the insurance company was wealthy. A problem from the opposite side can occur when the jury has sympathy for the defendant, because they figure if insurance had been involved the jury would have been told about it.

I always remind my jurors of their oath not to let sympathy for either side affect their verdict – that it is my job to collect the verdict; their job is to determine liability and assess damages.

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