The Georgia Supreme Court held that plaintiffs in a product liability suit were due a new trial because the defendant failed to disclose information about its excess liability insurers during discovery as required by Georgia law. Ford Motor Co. v. Conley, 2014 WL 695224 (Ga. Feb. 24, 2014).
The plaintiffs brought a product liability suit against an automaker after a single-vehicle rollover accident. During discovery, the plaintiffs asked the automaker whether or not it carried casualty or liability insurance to insure against the incident. The automaker objected and replied merely stating that it had sufficient resources to cover any reasonable judgment. The automaker prevailed at trial. Almost two years later at an unrelated trial for a similar incident, the automaker disclosed its excess liability insurers. The plaintiffs learned of the disclosure and filed a motion for new trial, arguing that the automaker’s failure to disclose its excess insurance liability carriers before their trial prevented the plaintiffs from having a fair and impartial jury hear the case. The trial court granted the motion. On appeal, the Georgia appellate court divided evenly on the appeal, and the case was transferred to the Georgia Supreme Court for decision.
The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. The automaker argued that the plaintiffs were not materially harmed by its answers and that it properly objected to questions about possible liability insurers because the automaker, in fact, had sufficient resources to cover any reasonable judgment. The Supreme Court rejected this argument because, under Georgia law, a party to a civil case is entitled to have a jury qualified by the trial court considering whether any jurors are shareholders, officers, directors or employees of any insurance carrier with a financial interest in the case, and the automaker’s responses deprived the plaintiffs of this opportunity at the original trial.