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Florida First DCA rules that trial court did not abuse discretion in denying mistrial in motor vehicle negligence case despite defense counsel’s reference to the plaintiff’s insurance

On June 16, 2021, in Winters v. Harper, No. 1D19-1650, the Florida First DCA ruled in a motor vehicle negligence case that the trial court’s denial of the plaintiff’s mistrial motion after two references to insurance coverage occurred during trial did not amount to a reversible abuse of discretion. The first reference to insurance occurred when the defendant testified under questioning by her own attorney that she had taken a photo of the license plate of the plaintiff’s vehicle at the accident scene to “report to my insurance.” The second reference occurred during the plaintiff’s cross-examination by defense counsel, following a sidebar in which defense counsel had expressly agreed to not refer to insurance. Instead, defense counsel began the next question with a reference to the plaintiff’s mother’s insurance, before correcting himself and instead referring to the mother’s phone number. The First DCA stated that the longstanding rule in Florida prohibiting any reference to insurance applies to a defendant’s insurance. See Carls Markets, Inc. v. Meyer, 69 So. 2d 789, 793 (Fla. 1953) (“evidence of insurance carried by a defendant is not properly to be considered by the jury”).

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