Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bad Faith Experts Precluded by Court as Unnecessary for Jury's Understanding of Issues Presented

In his May 31, 2013 decision in the case of Schifino v. GEICO, No. 2:11-CV-1094 (W.D. Pa. May 31, 2013, McVerry, J.), Federal Western District Court Judge Terrence F. McVerry ruled on Motions In Limine filed by both parties in a bad faith litigation.  

Of note, the Court granted each party’s Motion In Limine to preclude the expert testimony of the experts retained by both parties to address the alleged bad faith issues.  

Although the Court stated that it had concerns about the many legal conclusions contained in the Plaintiff’s bad faith expert’s report and the bases upon which those conclusions were reached, the Court did not rest its decision to preclude both party’s experts on that particular ground.  

Rather, in Schifino, Judge McVerry relied upon the case of Smith v. Allstate, Ins. Co., No. 3:11-CV-165, 2012 W.L. 5463099 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 8, 2012), in which that Court set forth the test for the admissibility of an expert witness in a bad faith matter.  Judge McVerry followed the Smith v. Allstate court's holding that issues of bad faith reviewed by the expert witnesses were neither complex nor scientific, and did not require specialized skill or knowledge to by a jury to understand.  As such, the expert testimony was not allowed in Smith v. Allstate.

Similarly, in this Schifino, the Court ruled that the bad faith issues upon which the experts were retained to testify were outside the scope of proper expert testimony.   The Schifino court found that concept of bad faith to be within the ordinary understanding of average laypersons such that expert testimony was not necessary in this particular case.  

In this matter, the central issue is whether GEICO had a reasonable basis for the manner in which it handled the Plaintiff’s claim.   The Schifino court thought that a reasonable juror certainly possessed the requisite knowledge to assess the bad faith allegations which were deemed by the court to be neither complex nor scientific.   

The court in Schifino used the same rationale to preclude the Defendant’s bad faith liability expert.  
Anyone wishing to review the Schifino v. GEICO decision may click this LINKThe case of Smith v. Allstate can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney Joseph Hudock of the Pittsburgh law firm of Summers, McDonnell, Hudock, Guthrie & Skeel for bringing this case to my attention.

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