State Farm v. Gold
January 27, 2016
4th DCA

Impermissible UM Statements

A recent decision from the 4th DCA is a setback for all car accident victims. The decision was rendered in State Farm v. Gold, 41 Fla. Law Weekly D257 (Fla. 4TH DCA January 27, 2016), a case out of the 19th Judicial Circuit. This case centered around a rear-end auto accident in which the Plaintiff was pursuing his uninsured motorist coverage from State Farm. At the closing of the trial, Plaintiff’s counsel displayed a PowerPoint slide to the jury that read, “Michael Gold has been carrying a lot of debt State Farm promised to pay stacks of medical bills. Paying the price for someone else’s mistake State Farm refuses to take responsibility for debt it owes to Mr. Gold, forcing us to bring them to trial.”

While this slide was displayed, Plaintiff’s counsel told the jury that the plaintiff had purchased UM coverage “so this wouldn’t happen.” He argued that State Farm had denied Mr. Gold’s claim, forcing him to face down a stack of medical bills and that he had been carrying the burden with him, while State Farm never took responsibility for the damages or the injuries. Counsel argued that State Farm would never take responsibility until the jury forced it to with its verdict.

The statements that were written and spoken in this closing argument were powerful and persuasive, and the defense immediately objected to them. Their objection was sustained, and at the close of the trial, they made a motion for a new trial which was denied. The 4th DCA wrote, in their opinion, that a motion for new trial should be granted when a party’s closing argument is so highly prejudicial and inflammatory that it denies the opposing party its right to a fair trial. Counsel’s comments suggesting State Farm refused to own up to its responsibility were improper and focused the jury’s attention on State Farm’s “liability,” rather than on the issue of damages.

Sometimes the truth can be brutal. In this case, the court found that the brutal truth of the matter was too much for the jury to handle. At Tuttle Law, P.A. we find ways to present the whole truth at trial, but with this new ruling in mind, we also understand how we can be limited.