Barsema v. Susong

In Barsema v. Susong, 156 Ariz. 309, 751 P.2d 969 (1988), the plaintiffs appealed a jury verdict in favor of defendant on plaintiffs' medical malpractice claim. Id. at 311, 751 P.2d at 971. The plaintiffs argued that the trial court had erred in prohibiting them from cross-examining defendant's expert witness regarding his employment relationship with defendant's insurer, Mutual Insurance Company of Arizona ("MICA"). Id. They argued that the statute relied upon by the trial court, which prohibited admission of evidence that any witness had any relationship with a health care insurer for any purpose, was unconstitutional. Id. at 311-12, 751 P.2d at 971-72. In analyzing the constitutionality of the statute, the supreme court noted that, contrary to the statute, Rule 411 of the Arizona Rules of Evidence did not require exclusion of evidence of insurance when offered for another purpose, such as proof of bias or prejudice of a witness. Id. at 313, 751 P.2d at 973. Although the rules of evidence allow a trial court to admit evidence of insurance not offered on the issue of liability or damages after determining its relevancy and weighing its probative value against the danger of undue prejudice, the statute prohibited the admission of such evidence in all medical malpractice cases. Id. at 314, 751 P.2d at 974. Consequently, the court found that the statute provided an analytical framework contrary to the rules of evidence and held that it violated the separation of powers doctrine. Id.