In a case published earlier this year, Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc. v. Perry, 108 A.3d 558 (2015), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals decided the question of whether evidence of a defendant’s lack of liability insurance is admissible for purposes of establishing a negligent hiring claim.
The plaintiff sustained serious injuries after being struck by a dump truck while crossing an intersection. The dump truck was not covered by liability insurance at the time of the accident, as required by Maryland law. The plaintiff then brought a personal injury suit against the defendants, which included a claim of negligent hiring against ACS, the business that hired the trucking company to haul its materials. The jury verdict was in favor of the plaintiff, and he was awarded damages in the amount of $529,500. ACS appealed, claiming that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of the driver’s lack of insurance at trial.
Although lack of insurance is generally inadmissible to prove that a person acted negligently, it may be used for other purposes if it is relevant to the elements of the claim. For a negligent hiring claim, the court looked to whether the lack of insurance rendered the driver incompetent to do the job, and whether it was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The court stated that the lack of insurance coverage could be relevant to the first issue of the driver’s competence, depending on the job he performed. Since ACS was not allowed to have truck operators who did not produce insurance, the fact that the driver was uninsured did relate to his competence to transport materials on state highways. The driver’s lack of liability insurance, therefore, was relevant to whether the business employed a competent person.