Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Federal Judge James M. Munley Allows Insurance Evidence in Post-Koken Case

In his May 28, 2013 decision in the Post-Koken case of Noone v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co., No. 3:12cv1675 (M.D.Pa. May 28, 2013 Munley, J.), Judge James M. Munley of the Federal Middle District Court of Pennsylvania addressed a motion in limine filed by the defendant UIM carrier seeking to preclude evidence of (1) the amount of premiums paid by the Plaintiff for the UIM policy, (2) the amount of the limits of UIM coverage available, and (3) the amount of the tortfeasor's third party liability coverage along with the amount received by the  plaintiff from the tortfeaser.

The defendant UIM carrier asserted that such information was irrelevant to the issues presented.  The defense also argued that to admit such evidence would serve to suggest to the jury an amount to award the Plaintiff.

The Plaintiff countered by asserting that the evidence at issue should be admitted to enable the jury to fully understand and evaluate the case before reaching a verdict.

Judge Munley sided with the Plaintiff's position, denied the motion in limine and ruled that all of the evidence at issue was admissible.  The court felt that the evidence was relevant and not unfairly prejudicial, confusing, or misleading. 

In its Opinion, the court noted that the case before it involved a breach of contract claim based upon a UIM contract and given that UIM benefits are designed to compensate an injured party plaintiff when the plaintiff's damages exceed the amount of the tortfeasor's liability limits.  Accordingly, Judge Munley ruled that it was important that the jury not only be made aware of the amount of the tortfeasor's liability limits but also the amount that the Plaintiff recovered from the tortfeasor's liability policy.

The court also stated that the insurance policy the Plaintiff purchased from Progressive was the contract at issue.  Accordingly, Judge Munley ruled that it was "not overly prejudicial" for the defendant for the jury to know the amount of UIM coverage the Plaintiff purchased or what the premium for that policy that was paid by the Plaintiff.  The court stated that this information, "even if it is merely background information, will assist the jury in completely understanding and evaluating the case."

Anyone wishing to review this decision by Federal Middle District Court Judge James M. Munley in the Noone case may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Bruce Zero of the Scranton, PA Powell Law Firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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