Thursday, April 16, 2015

Judge Williamson of Monroe County Stays His Course of Severing Bad Faith and UM/UIM Claims for Trial (But Not Discovery)

In his recent decision in the case of Kemp v. Mut. Benefit Ins. Co., PICS Case No. 15-0517 (C.P. Monroe Co. Jan. 14, 2015 Williamson J.), Judge David J. Williamson addressed a defendant carrier's motion to sever bad faith claims from the contractual claims in the early stages of the matter.  The motion also requested a stay on any bad faith discovery requests.

This matter involved UM/UIM coverage and bad-faith damages claims.  In her complaint, plaintiff sought recovery of UM and UIM benefits and bad faith damages under 42 Pa.C.S.A. §8371. She alleged a bad faith delay in the Defendant carrier's request for a statement under oath, a medical examination, or medical records.

Defendant filed to motion to sever the bad faith claims from the contractual claims and to stay discovery on the bad faith claims until resolution of the contractual claims.
Judge David Williamson
Monroe County
The court granted defendant's motion to sever but denied its motion to stay discovery.  Judge Williamson noted that there was no appellate authority regarding whether to sever bad faith claims from contractual claims and that there was a split among the courts of common pleas on the issue.

The court did hold that the Defendant insurance company would be prejudiced by joining the bad faith claims with the contractual claims during trial. Citing his own previous decision on similar issues in the case of Orsulak v. Penn National [See HERE], Judge Williamson granted the motion to sever the bad faith claims.

  As to defendant's motion to stay discovery regarding the bad faith claims, the court found that staying discovery until after resolution of the contractual claims would unfairly and unnecessarily delay a conclusion of all proceedings. Further, there were more efficient measures the court could use to protect defendant from prejudice than ordering a blanket freeze on all discovery regarding bad faith.  Judge Williamson noted that if actual prejudice caused by bad faith discovery requests could be shown as discovery progressed, the court could bar certain discovery until resolution of the contractual claims.

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision may email me at dancummins@comcast.net.

Source:  "Case Digests."  The Pennsylvania Law Weekly (March 30, 2015).

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