Monday, December 2, 2013

Judge Mannion of Middle District Precludes Bad Faith Expert As "Unnecessary"

In his recent Opinion in the case of Scott v. GEICO, No. 3:11-CV-1790 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 15, 2013 Mannion, J.), Judge Malachy E. Mannion of the United States District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania addressed a series of Motions In Limine filed the parties to preclude the introduction of various pieces of evidence at a bad faith trial.  

More specifically, GEICO filed Motions In Limine to preclude the Plaintiff’s bad faith expert witness from testifying, to preclude anticipated new testimony, to preclude evidence of alleged punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, interest, and GEICO’s net worth, to preclude evidence of the arbitration award and post-arbitration memorandum, and to preclude evidence of claimed activity during and after the arbitration.  

The Plaintiff filed a Motion In Limine to preclude any reference to settlement negotiations that occurred after the arbitration award.   The court noted that the Defendant filed a Certificate of Concurrence with regard to the Plaintiff’s motion and, as such, the Plaintiff’s motion was granted.  

With respect to the issues raised by the defense, the court noted that, although the Plaintiff did not concur with the Defendant’s Motion to Preclude Claim Activity that occurred during and after the arbitration, the Plaintiff did not file a Brief in Opposition.  As such, that particular motion was deemed to be unopposed pursuant to the Middle District of Pennsylvania local rule 7.6 and was, therefore, granted.  

Judge Malachy E. Mannion
Federal Middle District Court
Significantly, with respect to the remaining Motions In Limine, Judge Mannion granted the Defendant’s Motion In Limine to preclude the Plaintiff’s bad faith expert witness.   

After reviewing the legal precedent on this issue from both the federal and state courts of Pennsylvania, including the recent cases of Smith v. Allstate Insurance Company and Schifino v. GEICO (both out of the Western District of Pennsylvania), Judge Mannion followed those cases and concluded that a bad faith expert was “unnecessary” as a “reasonable juror is capable of determining what the Defendant [insurance company] knew, how the claim was evaluated, and whether, in light of that information, the Defendant’s actions constituted bad faith.”  See Op. at 8-9.  

Also of note was the court's additional granting of the Defendant’s Motion In Limine to preclude the introduction into evidence of the arbitration award and post-arbitration memorandum.  However, the court denied that motion in part with respect to the introduction of the Defendant carrier's pain and suffering valuation of $219,000.00 contained in its arbitration memorandum as that information was relevant to the question of whether the carrier's previous, lower offers amounted to bad faith conduct.  

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion may click this LINK.

To review the Tort Talk post with Links to the Schifino case and the Smith v. Allstate case, click HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney Scott Cooper of the Harrisburg law firm of Schmidt Kramer for bringing this Scott case to my attention.  

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