Appeal from St. Clair Circuit Court. (CV-93-189). Robert Austin, TRIAL JUDGE.
Application For Rehearing Overruled May 19, 1995.
Houston, Almon, Kennedy, Ingram, and Butts, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Houston
The defendants, Robin Bruce Lowery and Reliable Tin Shop, Inc. ("Reliable"), appeal from a judgment entered on a $100,000 jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, Deborah Hopkins Ward and her husband, Bruce Ward, in this negligence action arising out of an automobile accident. We reverse and remand.
The defendants argue that the trial court erred in allowing the plaintiffs to introduce evidence of, and to comment on, the fact that the defendants had liability insurance coverage through Alfa Insurance Company ("Alfa") and that Alfa had paid for the damage to the plaintiffs' automobile. *fn1 Specifically at issue are Ms. Ward's testimony concerning Alfa's payment and concerning two documents, which were admitted into evidence and commented on by the plaintiffs' attorney over the defendants' objection and motion for mistrial. The first of these documents was an acknowledgment by the plaintiffs of their receipt of a payment from Alfa for damage to their automobile:
"ADVANCE PAYMENT AGREEMENT (This is not a Release)
"POLICYHOLDER Reliable Tin Shop CLAIM NO. A0990951
DRIVER Bruce Lowery ADJUSTER Arthur Young
INJURED PARTY Deborah Ward
"I/We hereby agree and understand that any [money] paid to or for me/us on behalf of Reliable Tin Shop & Bruce Lowery is to be deducted from the total amount of any final settlement or judgment in my/our favor for alleged damages resulting from an accident on
"August 31, 1991 at I-20 near Leeds, Alabama.
"Signed /s/ Deborah Ward Date 11-20-91
"Signed /s/ Bruce Ward Date ...