Should Juries Be Informed that Municipality Will Indemnify Officer's § 1983 Liability for Constitutional Wrongdoing?
86 Iowa L. Rev. 1209 (2001)
42 Pages Posted: 10 May 2014
Date Written: 2001
The rules of evidence generally prohibit informing the jury about a defendant's private liability insurance. At the time the Article was published, however, the courts had not resolved definitively whether the jury in a §1983 action should be informed about governmental indemnification. There are policy considerations both in favor of and against disclosure. It is also possible that the rule should be different for compensatory and punitive damages. Finally, if the jury should be informed about indemnification of compensatory or punitive damages, it must be determined whether cautionary instructions should accompany the disclosure.
The purpose of this Article is to analyze these issues. Part I introduces the basic principles of §1983 litigation that are germane to the indemnification issue. Part II discusses indemnification of compensatory and punitive damages in §1983 actions. Part III analyzes the evidentiary exclusionary rule pertaining to liability insurance and criticisms that rule has generated. Part IV evaluates whether indemnification is similar to liability insurance so that the evidentiary exclusionary rule should apply to indemnification. Part V reviews the decisional law concerning the propriety of informing the jury about indemnification of compensatory and punitive damages in §1983 actions. Part VI sets forth conclusions and recommendations.
Keywords: Section 1983 litigation, governmental indemnification, compensatory damages, punitive damages, evidentiary exclusionary rule, disclosure to jury
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