RULE 411. LIABILITY INSURANCE
Evidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon the issue of whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully. This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of insurance against liability if offered for another purpose, such as proof of agency, ownership, or control, or bias or prejudice of a witness.
This general prohibition against disclosure of the fact that a person is or is not insured against liability is a fair statement of present North Dakota law. See, Bischoff v. Koenig, 100 N.W.2d 159 (N.D. 1959); Beardsley v. Ewing, 49 N.D. 373, 168 N.W. 791 (1918). But, see, James v. Young, 77 N.D. 451, 43 N.W. 2d 692 (1950), wherein a direct action by a third party against an insurance company was allowed on the grounds that municipal ordinance requiring insurance for the benefit of a public carrier passenger made insurer directly liable. See also, the discussion in Shermoen v. Lindsay, 163 N.W.2d 738 (N.D. 1968).
The reason for the rule is that the existence or nonexistence of liability insurance is of low probative value as to the issue of negligence, and may be prejudicial. But see the criticism of this rule and the policy underlying it in McCormick on Evidence 201 (2d ed. 1972).
The second sentence of the rule merely states that evidence of insurance need not be excluded if offered for another purpose to which it may be relevant.
Rule 411 was amended, effective March 1, 1990. The amendment is technical in nature and no substantive change is intended.
SOURCES: Minutes of Joint Procedure Committee: March 24-25, 1988, page 12; December 3, 1987, page 15; April 8, 1976, page 26. Rule 411, Federal Rules of Evidence; Rule 411, SBAND proposal.
CONSIDERED: 39-16-03, 39-16-11, 49-18-33.