Here’s a tidbit that can come in handy in the right case. In Murphy v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 772 F.2d 273 (6th Cir. 1985), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s ruling that an insured’s willingness to submit to a polygraph test as part of the insurance company’s investigation was admissible evidence at trial. In so holding, the court noted that a willingness to submit to a polygraph test does not depend on the scientific acceptability which is necessary to support the admissibility of polygraph test results. In other words, an insured’s willingness to submit to a polygraph test may be admissible as probative of the insured’s credibility and the insurer’s motive for denial, but the polygraph test results most likely will be ruled inadmissible.
This type of evidence can obviously be very persuasive, especially in an arson case. So the next time an insurance company seems to be ramping up their investigation for suspected arson but your client swears up and down he or she had nothing to do with the fire, send a letter to the insurance company notifying it of your client’s willingness to submit to a polygraph test. This approach obviously demands a risk v. reward analysis, but it is a great tactic in the right case. Also be aware of a distinguishing case, Wolfel v. Holbrook, 823 F.2d 970 (6th Cir. 1987), which made a point of noting that it was the insurer in Murphy that requested that the insured submit to the polygraph test.