It is a fundamental principle of common law that court proceedings are open to the public. There are, of course, factors and circumstances that necessitate a departure from this principle. For example, the exclusion of witnesses for a trial until they are called to give evidence is meant to avoid witnesses giving “tainted” evidence that is influenced by other testimony or court proceedings.
The cases of Skunk v. Ketash, released on March 22, 2016, and Fosker v. Thorpe, released in 2004, are an interesting example of two judges finding their way to opposite conclusions on similar facts. In both cases, the plaintiff was injured in an accident which occurred during an alleged theft of the plaintiff’s own insured vehicle. In both cases, liability coverage was unavailable to the alleged thief. In both cases, the insurer of the vehicle argued that uninsured motorist protection was not available to the plaintiff because the stolen vehicle was insured, not uninsured. Interestingly, as indicated, the outcome of the two cases was different.