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Sphere Drake Insurance v. Trisko
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
226 F.3d 951 (2000)
Robert Trisko (defendant) designed jewelry that he sold at shows around the country. At the end of a Miami show, Trisko and an employee loaded two suitcases of unsold jewelry into the trunk of their rental car and waited for a vehicle with other employees to arrive. The men initially waited outside the rental car. After about 30 minutes, the men got into the rental car, where they played the radio, talked, and read while they continued to wait. Eventually the other vehicle arrived, and the group drove to the airport. But when the rental car’s trunk was opened at the airport, the two suitcases containing the jewelry were gone. The jewelry had been insured by Sphere Drake Insurance PLC and other insurance companies (the insurers) (plaintiffs). The insurers filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the jewelry loss was not covered. The insurers classified the jewelry loss as either a mysterious disappearance or an unexplained loss, and those types of losses were not covered. Further, theft was covered only if Trisko or an employee had been in the car at the time of the theft, and the insurers argued that Trisko could not prove that this had been the case. At trial, Trisko presented Michael Crowley as an expert on jewelry crimes in Miami. Crowley was a Miami police detective who had investigated jewelry thefts in the Miami area for years. Crowley testified that he believed that the jewelry had been stolen using stealthy methods. Crowley based his opinion, in part, on statements from two informants that two people had been paid to steal Trisko’s jewelry. The informants’ statements were not admitted as evidence. The trial court instructed the jury that it could use the informants’ statements only to understand Crowley’s opinion and not as proof that someone was hired to steal the jewelry. The jury returned a verdict for Trisko. The insurers appealed, arguing that Crowley’s opinion was unreliable because it was based on inadmissible hearsay evidence.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Heaney, J.)
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