In the instant case we are asked to address whether evidence of insurance or lack of insurance is admissible to establish a negligent hiring claim. At the core of this case is whether the admission of this evidence likely influenced the jury's determination of liability for Perry's injuries. Petitioner, Moran Perry ("Perry") filed suit against Respondent, Asphalt Concrete Services, Inc. ("ACS"), Higher Power Trucking, LLC ("Higher Power") and William Johnson, II ("Johnson") for injuries he suffered when he was struck by a dump truck owned by Higher Power and operated by Johnson. The Circuit Court for Prince George's County allowed into evidence witness testimony regarding Johnson's lack of liability insurance coverage at the time of the accident. We conclude that this was legal error. Evidence of lack of insurance coverage had no causal relationship to the injuries suffered by Perry and was thus irrelevant to both the claims of negligent hiring and ordinary negligence.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On April 28, 2009, Perry was crossing the intersection of Opossumtown Pike and Thomas Johnson Drive in Frederick, Maryland when he was struck by a 2007 Kenworth dump truck operated by Johnson, and owned by Higher Power. As a result of the accident, Perry suffered head trauma and rib fractures. ACS had hired Higher Power to haul asphalt and stone to St. John's Regional Catholic Church, where ACS was paving a children's play pad. A preliminary investigation by Officer Joseph Palkovic revealed that neither Johnson nor Higher Power had liability insurance covering the truck because of a lapse in payment on the insurance policy.
On April 11, 2012, Perry filed his initial complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Perry alleged negligence against Higher Power, Johnson, and ACS.
On September 27, 2013, Perry filed a "Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint" to reflect that Higher Power "was not in good standing according to the publicly available records of the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation at the time of the accident." Thus, Perry sought to dismiss Higher Power as a separately named defendant because Higher Power "was simply a trade name under which [Johnson] was unlawfully operating his dump truck business." The proposed first amended complaint alleged the same counts of negligence and negligent hiring but substituted Johnson for Higher Power in the negligent hiring count. The court granted Perry's motion.
Trial began on October 7, 2013. Perry was the first witness. He testified about the extent of his injuries, the effect the injuries had on his everyday activities, and his medical treatment following the accident. After Perry's testimony, in a conversation with the court that occurred outside the presence of the jury, ACS repeated the argument it made in its September 20, 2013 motion in limine that evidence of lack of insurance through the testimony of Officer Joseph Palkovic should not be admitted:
The court decided that Perry should call ACS's employees to establish a foundation for an employment relationship before it would rule on the admissibility of the evidence of lack of insurance "[b]ecause there's too many factual disputes here."
Burt Maggio ("Maggio"), President of ACS at the time of the accident, was next to testify. Perry produced a fax cover sheet dated April 3, 2009 and asked Maggio to read a message on the sheet. Upon ACS's objection, the parties approached the bench and the following colloquy ensued:
Maggio read the message on the fax cover sheet to the jury in open court: "Hi. On March 11th, I sent you a request for a revised W-9 and certificate of liability insurance. I still have not received either of these from you. Please send them to us ASAP. Thanks, Samantha."
Next, Maggio testified to the nature of ACS's dealings with Higher Power. Based on how many trucks it needed for a project and how many hours it needed the trucks to operate, an ACS dispatcher would call various hauling companies to determine if they were available. ACS compensated Higher Power on an hourly basis. According to Maggio, a truck operator's "clock starts" when he or she picks up the first load from the materials supplier and heads to the job site. He pointed out that the only instruction ACS would give to truck operators was where to dump the material after they arrived at the job site. A truck operator would be free to go if the load dropped off satisfied the requirements of a project, otherwise, an ACS dispatcher or superintendent would ask them to go back to the supplier to pick up another load. Further, ACS does not dictate the route a truck operator uses to get to a site. Truck operators had the discretion to go to McDonald's for lunch, take a cigarette break, or do another job prior to completing ACS's job. Maggio also stated that ACS reserved the right to dock a truck operator's hourly pay if it felt the operator took too long to complete a job.
After Maggio's testimony, Perry made a request to call Officer Joseph Palkovic as the next witness and the following exchange occurred outside the presence of the jury:
The court, finding that there was now enough evidence to establish a foundation as to ACS and Johnson's employment relationship, and over ACS's objection, granted Perry's request. The jury returned to the courtroom.
Officer Palkovic testified that he responded to the scene of the accident on April 28, 2009, where Johnson identified himself as the driver who struck the person in the intersection. He stated that Johnson produced evidence of insurance. Over ACS's objection, the court allowed Officer Palkovic to testify that a further investigation revealed that the insurance policy on the truck Johnson drove was not valid due to a lapse in payment. On cross-examination, Officer Palkovic testified that he determined Higher Power was the owner of the truck.
Next, Perry called Blake Wood, project manager for ACS at the time of the accident. Mr. Wood stated that he requested Johnson's certificate of insurance and driver's license, and expected that the office manager would notify him if the paperwork was not received. He elaborated that he would not have hired Johnson without a certificate of insurance because it would be illegal and insurance is required.
Prior to resting his case, Perry called additional witnesses to testify on the subject of insurance. First, he called Samantha Mentzer, an ACS employee who worked in the front office at the time of the accident. She testified that her handwriting on the fax cover sheet introduced during Maggio's testimony read, "Higher Power, still have not received anything from them. Second request. I called and... left message too." Second, Perry called Diane Moses, a claims specialist with Progressive Insurance Company.
After Perry rested his case and while the jury was excused from the courtroom, ACS moved that Perry's requested jury instruction regarding the requirement of liability insurance
(emphasis added). The jury returned a verdict in favor of Perry. The verdict sheet indicated that the jury found: (1) Johnson was the agent, servant, and/or employee of ACS; (2) ACS was negligent in its hiring of Johnson; (3) Johnson was negligent in failing to properly operate his vehicle on April 28, 2009, and that his negligence was a proximate cause of the injuries to Perry; and (4) Perry was not contributorily negligent. It awarded Perry $29,500 for past medical expenses and $500,000 for pain and suffering, physical
On October 22, 2013, ACS filed a "Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict or, in the alternative, a Motion for New Trial." The trial court denied this motion on November 7, 2013. ACS appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which, in a reported opinion, reversed the judgment entered in favor of Perry.
As explained below, we shall hold that, for the purposes of the instant case, evidence of lack of insurance coverage was inadmissible because it was not the proximate cause of the complaining party's injuries. Accordingly, we shall affirm the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals for the reasons explained in this opinion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Our standard of review on the admissibility of evidence depends on whether the "ruling under review was based on a discretionary weighing of relevance in relation to other factors or on a pure conclusion of law." Parker v. State, 408 Md. 428, 437, 970 A.2d 320, 325 (2009) (quoting J.L. Matthews, Inc. v. Md.-Nat'l Capital Park & Planning Comm'n, 368 Md. 71, 92, 792 A.2d 288, 300 (2002)). Generally, "whether a particular item of evidence should be admitted or excluded is committed to the considerable and sound discretion of the trial court" and reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. Ruffin Hotel Corp. of Md., Inc. v. Gasper, 418 Md. 594, 619, 17 A.3d 676, 691 (2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, we determine whether evidence is relevant as a matter of law. State v. Simms, 420 Md. 705, 725, 25 A.3d 144, 156 (2011). The de novo standard of review applies "[w]hen the trial judge's ruling involves a legal question." Parker, 408 Md. at 437, 970 A.2d at 325. Although trial judges have wide discretion "in weighing relevancy in light of unfairness or efficiency considerations, trial judges do not have discretion to admit irrelevant evidence." Simms, 420 Md. at 724, 25 A.3d at 155.
Even where there is error, this Court will not reverse a lower court's judgment for harmless error. Crane v. Dunn, 382 Md. 83, 91, 854 A.2d 1180, 1185 (2004). Rather, the complaining party must demonstrate that the error was prejudicial, or in other words, "the error was likely to have affected the verdict below." Id.
Neither party disputes the trial court's ruling that the evidence of lack of insurance was not relevant to the claim of ordinary negligence. Perry claims that the evidence of Johnson's lack of insurance demonstrates it was more likely than not that ACS violated its duty to use reasonable care in hiring Johnson because it knew or should have known of Johnson's inability to lawfully operate a dump truck. In response, ACS contends that admission of this evidence is contrary to Maryland Rule 5-411 which prohibits the admission of evidence of insurance to prove fault or liability and is irrelevant to the claim of negligent hiring. We shall discuss the admissibility of evidence of insurance generally and as it pertains to a party's liability for negligent hiring.
Relevance of Liability Insurance Generally
Under Maryland Rule 5-411, "[e]vidence 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." Evidence of liability insurance may, however, be admissible if "offered for another purpose, such as proof of agency, ownership, or control, or bias or prejudice of a witness." Md. Rule 5-411. Derived from Federal Rule of Evidence 411, Rule 5-411 is designed to prevent the undue prejudice that may result when liability insurance is admitted because "the inference of fault from the fact of insurance coverage is a tenuous one, as is its converse." FED. R. EVID. 411 Notes of Advisory Committee. This rationale is consistent with the general framework of Maryland Rules 5-402 and 5-403 which state, respectively, that "[e]vidence that is not relevant is not admissible" and "[a]lthough relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury." In other words, when evidence of insurance is being offered for a purpose not prohibited by Rule 5-411, the court has broad discretion to admit or exclude evidence under the general principles of relevancy and Rule 5-403. 2 JACK B. WEINSTEIN & MARGARET A. BERGER, WEINSTEIN'S FEDERAL EVIDENCE, § 411.02 (Mark S. Brodin, ed., Matthew Bender 2d ed. 1997).
Establishing Liability for Negligent Hiring
An important issue at trial was determining the relationship between Johnson and ACS: was Johnson (1) an agent, servant, and/or employee of ACS (i.e., in an employment relationship where ACS was the employer) or (2) an independent contractor? The type of relationship is significant, because it would impact any determination of liability. Under the doctrine of respondeat-superior, an employer is vicariously liable for the acts of its employee, within the scope of employment, even if the employer does not commit any
At trial, the jury found Johnson to be the agent, servant and/or employee of ACS. Therefore, even if Perry failed to prove the negligent hiring count, ACS was liable under the doctrine of respondeat-superior. The trial court found there was enough evidence presented for the jury to determine the type of employment relationship that existed between Johnson and ACS. As we will later discuss, it is likely that the admission of the evidence of lack of insurance impacted the jury's verdict on this issue and as a result, the determination of liability.
To determine whether evidence is relevant to a claim of negligent hiring, we must analyze the elements of the claim. For a cause of action based in negligence, such as negligent hiring, "a plaintiff must prove the existence of a duty owed by a defendant to him (or to a class of which he is a part), a breach of that duty, a legally cognizable causal relationship between breach of duty and the harm suffered, and damages." Cramer v. Housing Opportunities Comm'n of Montgomery Cty., 304 Md. 705, 712, 501 A.2d 35, 39 (1985). One is negligent if he or she breaches a duty he or she owes to another. "[T]hat negligence is actionable[, however,] only if it is a proximate cause of the damage." Cramer, 304 Md. at 712-13, 501 A.2d at 39. Specifically, to establish liability in a negligent hiring claim, "the plaintiff must prove two links in the causal chain." Cramer, 304 Md. at 713, 501 A.2d at 39. First, the plaintiff must show that the failure of an employer to undertake a reasonable inquiry resulted in the contractor's hiring. Id. Next, even "if a negligent hiring is shown, the plaintiff still must prove that the hiring was a proximate cause of the [plaintiff's] injury." Id. As we look to the elements of the claim, we keep in mind that relevant evidence is "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Md. Rule 5-401.
A. Negligent Hiring: Employer's Duty
Generally, an employer has a duty "to use reasonable care to select employees competent and fit for the work assigned to them and to refrain from retaining the services of an unfit employee"
Both Perry and the intermediate appellate court cite Puckrein v. ATI Transport, Inc. for the proposition that lack of liability insurance is relevant to the issue of whether ACS employed a competent person to work as a truck driver. 186 N.J. 563, 897 A.2d 1034 (2006). In Puckrein, the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that evidence of a waste disposal company's failure to verify a truck company's insurance coverage was relevant to the truck driver's competence. Because New Jersey law requires every owner of a motor vehicle to maintain motor vehicle liability insurance coverage, insurance is "the sine qua non to the transport of goods on the roadways." Puckrein, 897 A.2d at 1043. See N.J. STAT. ANN. 39:6B-1 (West 2012). Consequently, evidence of insurance was relevant to the driver's competence "to haul waste and recyclables across state lines." Puckrein, 897 A.2d at 1043. Citing Puckrein, the intermediate appellate court stated:
Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc., 221 Md. App. at 260-61, 108 A.3d at 573. The Court of Special Appeals noted, however, that "[this] is not the end of the inquiry." Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc., 221 Md. App. at 261, 108 A.3d at 573. "To be relevant to the claim of negligent hiring, the employer's negligence in hiring someone with no liability insurance must be the proximate cause of Mr. Perry's injuries." Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc., 221 Md. App. at 261, 108 A.3d at 573-74. We agree.
Like New Jersey, Maryland requires vehicles to be covered by liability insurance. Transportation Article § 17-103. The purpose of this law "is to ensure that those who own and operate motor vehicles registered in the State are `financially able to pay compensation for damages resulting from motor vehicle accidents.'" Enterprise Leasing Co. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 341 Md. 541, 549, 671 A.2d 509, 514 (1996) (quoting Pa. Nat'l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co. v. Gartelman, 288 Md. 151, 154, 416 A.2d 734, 736 (1980)). ACS hired Higher Power for the specific purpose of transporting materials to job sites. There was testimony from ACS that its policy and the policy of other companies in the industry is to make sure the truck drivers that are hired maintain insurance coverage on their vehicles. This policy is in place to ensure compliance with the law. The evidence at trial showed that ACS reached out to Higher Power twice to verify its insurance coverage. It follows that a
B. Negligent Hiring: Causation
Next, we discuss the causation element of a negligent hiring claim. As the intermediate appellate court recognized, the negligent hiring must be the proximate cause of Perry's injury to be relevant to a negligent hiring claim. Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc., 221 Md.App. at 261, 108 A.3d at 573-74. Similarly, the crux of ACS's argument focuses on proximate cause. It argued that for an employer to be liable under a negligent hiring claim, the very quality that renders an employee "incompetent" must be the cause of the harm. Perry cites Snowhite v. State, Use of Tennant, 243 Md. 291, 221 A.2d 342 (1966) to support his contention that the evidence of Johnson's lack of insurance is admissible because it is "probative on the issue of whether ACS exercised due care in hiring Johnson to transport paving materials to its job site." As previously discussed, we agree that the evidence of lack of insurance is relevant to the standard of care exercised by ACS but note that Perry's arguments do not address the element of proximate cause.
Proximate cause consists of "1) a cause in fact, and 2) a legally cognizable cause." Pittway Corp. v. Collins, 409 Md. 218, 243, 973 A.2d 771, 786 (2009) (citation omitted). The "requirement that specific negligent conduct be a legally cognizable cause" involves a determination of whether it was foreseeable that the negligent act would cause the specific injury complained of in the case. Henley, 305 Md. at 333, 503 A.2d at 1340. Section 435(2) of the Restatement (Second) of Torts states that an "actor's conduct may be held not to be a legal cause of harm to another where after the event and looking back from the harm to the actor's negligent conduct, it appears to the court highly extraordinary that it should have brought about the harm."
In Cramer v. Hous. Opportunities Comm'n of Montgomery Cty, we held that evidence of the county housing commission's ready access to an employee's criminal and arrest records was admissible because the evidence was relevant to whether the commission was negligent as well as to the issue of causation. 304 Md. 705, 501 A.2d 35 (1985). The Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County ("Housing Commission") hired a building inspector despite the applicant's incomplete employment application, and without calling the applicant's listed references or conducting a criminal background check. At the time he was hired, the applicant had been charged with first degree burglary, sodomy, rape, and robbery. During a home invasion, the building inspector impermissibly learned that a particular residence, a townhouse rented from the Housing Commission, was occupied by a single mother and her two children. The building inspector later returned to the residence and raped the mother. We noted that "an employer may be guilty of negligence without incurring liability for the harm claimed." Cramer, 304 Md. at 718, 501 A.2d at 41. We provided the following example:
Id. (emphasis in original). In the example above, an employer, although negligent, will not be liable to a third party for harms later committed by the security guard because a reasonable inquiry of the applicant's fitness for the job at the time of hiring would not have provided the employer with knowledge of any adverse tendencies. Similarly, "if [the building inspector] had been negligently hired but had assaulted a tenant of the [Housing Commission] previously unknown to him, in a nearby shopping center and during off-duty hours, there would be no causal relationship between the hiring and the assault" because the hiring of the building inspector, though negligent, did not enable him to commit the wrongful act. Cramer, 304 Md. at 713, 501 A.2d at 39.
In Snowhite v. State, Use of Tennant, we concluded that the references to an employer's truck liability insurance policy did not constitute prejudicial error. 243 Md. 291, 221 A.2d 342 (1966). Clarence Henderson, employee of Harold Snowhite,
Snowhite, 243 Md. at 302, 221 A.2d at 348 (citations omitted). At trial, Henderson testified to a statement made by Snowhite that if Henderson had additional accidents, Snowhite's company would no longer be able to retain its liability insurance. This Court concluded that this statement was admissible because it fell within the first exception to the general rule. Henderson's reference to insurance was in response to a question regarding Snowhite's knowledge of Henderson's driving record. Because Henderson's negligent driving and his driving while intoxicated were the very instrumentalities causing the accident, testimony about insurance was appropriate. Unlike Snowhite, in the case before us, lack of insurance coverage alone, without more, should not, and did not give ACS an indication of Johnson's abilities to operate a dump truck.
We hold that for evidence of insurance to be admissible in a negligent hiring claim, the evidence must also be relevant to the proximate cause of the
In contrast to Snowhite and Cramer, where it was determined that the employer knew or should have known about a "specific quality" of the independent contractor, and that quality was relevant to the cause of the plaintiff's injury, the alleged basis of the negligent hiring here, i.e., the lack of liability insurance coverage, was not the cause and effect of Perry's injury. Rather, this evidence may have been admissible if Perry demonstrated that the evidence of lack of insurance was relevant to ACS's actual or constructive knowledge of a specific quality of Johnson's that later contributed to Perry's injuries. Johnson's lack of liability insurance coverage was irrelevant to the claim of negligent hiring because it was not relevant to the proximate cause of Perry's injuries, and did not fall within any exceptions to the general rule against admitting evidence of insurance. Rule 5-402 provides that irrelevant evidence is not admissible. Thus, it was legal error for the trial court to admit the evidence of lack of insurance coverage.
Furthermore, the trial court's requirement that Perry establish a foundation of an employer-employee relationship prior to admitting evidence of lack of insurance did not address the element of proximate cause and was therefore, an improper basis for admitting the evidence. A court's "failure to consider the proper legal standard in reaching a decision constitutes an abuse of discretion." Wilson-X v. Dep't of Human Res., 403 Md. 667, 675, 944 A.2d 509, 514 (2008) (citing Pasteur v. Skevofilax, 396 Md. 405, 433, 914 A.2d 113, 130 (2007)). The trial court disregarded its requirement that Perry establish a foundation when it allowed Perry to elicit testimony about notes on a fax sheet. These notes demonstrated that ACS had knowledge of Higher Power's failure to produce proof of insurance after two requests. Maggio's testimony regarding ACS's dealings with Higher Power/Johnson was germane to whether an employer-employee relationship existed. Over ACS's objection, however, the trial court allowed Maggio to read into the record notes on the fax cover sheet before Perry elicited testimony about the nature of ACS's dealings with Higher Power/Johnson.
Prejudicial Effect of Admitting Inadmissible Evidence of Lack of Insurance
Even where evidence is wrongly admitted, under Maryland Rule 5-103(a), "[e]rror may not be predicated upon a
Next, ACS contends that the admission of evidence of insurance was prejudicial because it, in violation of Rule 5-411, suggested to the jury that ACS was the only insured defendant. Accordingly, ACS maintains, Perry would only receive compensation for his injuries if the jury found ACS liable. Because ACS did not point to any facts to support this contention,
Despite this recognition, ACS notes that the trial court failed to give a curative instruction to the jury, an instruction, we note that all parties neglected to request timely. ACS further notes that the trial court failed to avoid prejudice by not taking action under Rules 2-502
Concluding that the admission of the evidence that Johnson lacked insurance coverage was prejudicial, the Court of Special Appeals cited Derrick v. Rock, 218 Ark. 339, 236 S.W.2d 726, 729 (1951), where "the Supreme Court of Arkansas recognized that, when `there are two or more defendants it is improper to show that one of them is not protected by insurance, and the admission of this evidence was reversible error because the jurors[`] minds likely were not indifferent to this fact in determining liability." Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc., 221 Md.App. at 266, 108 A.3d at 577. The Court of Appeals of Georgia has similarly recognized that evidence of a defendant's liability insurance coverage "is not admissible in the trial of an action in tort, and it is the general rule that such evidence is not only irrelevant and immaterial but harmful and prejudicial." McRee v. Atlanta Paper Co., 84 Ga.App. 181, 65 S.E.2d 832, 832 (1951). This Court has also discussed the prejudicial effect that the admission of irrelevant and immaterial evidence may have on a jury's determination of the issues in a case. In Balt. Belt R.R. Co. v. Sattler, 105 Md. 264, 270, 65 A. 752, 754 (1907), the Court concluded that in a cause of action for trespass, evidence of defendant Baltimore Belt Railroad Company's violation of certain ordinances is "not only wholly irrelevant and immaterial, but would tend to prejudice the defendants in the trial of the real issues involved." It explained that violation of certain ordinances is evidence of breach of duty in negligence, a cause of action not raised in the pleadings. Id.
As described previously, in the present case, evidence of lack of insurance was irrelevant and immaterial to the claim of negligent hiring. Because references to Johnson's lack of insurance coverage were not stricken from the record, the admission of that evidence probably influenced the jury in its determination of liability, resulting in prejudice to ACS.
All parties and the trial court agreed that the evidence of lack of insurance was not admissible to establish the claim of ordinary negligence. The absence of an instruction to the jurors to disregard the evidence of lack of insurance and discount its relevance to the question of ACS's liability makes it highly probable that the jury considered this evidence in violation of Rule 5-411's prohibition against admitting evidence of liability insurance or lack thereof for "the issue [of] whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully." When multiple individuals testified that ACS hired Johnson in violation of its company policy — ACS failed to verify Johnson's insurance coverage — this greatly increased the likelihood that the jury improperly inferred fault, as a result of the irrelevant evidence of Johnson's lack of insurance coverage, and considered that evidence in finding ACS liable under the theory of respondeat-superior. Evidence that ACS failed to verify Higher Power/Johnson's insurance coverage was not probative of ACS's control of Johnson's on-the-job performance, which is crucial in
As to the negligent hiring claim, the court explained to the parties, but not the jury, that the evidence of insurance was limited to the purpose "of the negligent hiring and whether a reasonable hirer would have determined that and acted accordingly." It further noted that "there might be a curative instruction right now" because the evidence was only admissible for the negligent hiring claim if the jury found "Johnson, II was an agent or an employee" of ACS. The court did not give this instruction or any other instruction to the jury to disregard the evidence of lack of insurance. Absence of such an instruction leaves a void in which the implication arises that the jury considered the evidence of lack of insurance to be relevant to the issues of duty, breach, causation, and damages. For reasons previously discussed, this was an inaccurate application of the law.
The evidence of lack of insurance was brought up repeatedly during trial. The testimony of Burt Maggio and Samantha Mentzer highlighted the fact that ACS hired Higher Power/Johnson despite Higher Power's failure to submit proof of insurance after two requests, in violation of ACS's internal policy. As a matter of law, ACS's apparent negligence in hiring Higher Power/Johnson to haul asphalt without verifying that Higher Power maintained liability insurance was not a proximate cause of Perry's injuries. Consequently, the court's admission of this evidence was an error. Because the determination of liability was a prime issue in the case and the jury was not instructed to disregard the evidence of lack of insurance in reaching its verdict, there is a reasonable probability that the jury considered the irrelevant evidence in finding ACS liable for Perry's injuries. As a result, we agree with the Court of Special Appeals and conclude that a new trial is warranted.
Asphalt & Concrete Servs., Inc. v. Perry, 221 Md.App. at 241, 108 A.3d at 562.
(emphasis in brief).