I handed the document to my client while the jury watched us. I asked my client, “Can you tell me what this document is?” He answered honestly, “It’s the property damage estimate… prepared by State Farm”. I knew what was coming, and I slumped. Defense counsel stood up and asked the judge, “Can I take a matter up outside of the presence of the jury?” The jury was marched out of the courtroom so the lawyers could speak to the judge.
At that point, the lawyer hired by the insurance company to represent the person who rear-ended my client made a motion for mistrial. Mistral means that the trial is so irretrievably broken that a whole new trial must be started. Bear in mind that only the truth had been spoken. The document had been prepared by State Farm, but it also had been carefully redacted by agreement of the parties to remove all reference to State Farm. There was no mention as to who State Farm Insurance Company insured in the case, and it was just as likely that State Farm insured my client and prepared the property damage estimate for him. Furthermore, state law requires that owners have car insurance. Nevertheless, the trial court granted the insurance company lawyer’s motion for mistrial. Days of preparation for that trial were wasted. We will re-try the case, but much will have to be redone.