Thursday, October 8, 2015

Judge Williamson of Monroe County Again Rules in Favor of Severing Bad Faith Claim in Post-Koken Action, But Against a Stay of Bad Faith Discovery

Below is a summary of another Post-Koken decision discovered out of Monroe County by Judge David J. Williamson.

In its decision, from back in the Spring, in the case of Hakim v. Erie Insurance Exchange, No. 6241-Civil-2013 (C.P. Monroe Co. March 18, 2015, Williamson, J.), Judge David J. Williamson granted the Defendant carrier’s Motion to Sever the bad faith and extra-contractual claims from the UIM claims, but denied the UIM carrier’s Motion to Stay Bad Faith Discovery.

In coming to his decision in this matter, which is consistent with other decisions out of Monroe County, Judge Williamson relied on Pa. R.C.P. 213(b), which provides the Court with discretion to sever cases.  

Referring to its own previous decision in the case of Orsulak v. Penn National, Judge Williamson again noted that “Evidence put forth in the bad faith claim for the court to consider would likely confuse the jury and its role in the proceedings.   Certain information disclosed for purposes of the bad faith claim could also prejudice the jury against [the Defendant].”   Citing Orsulak v. Penn National, No. 4255-CV-2011 (C.P. Monroe Co. Jan. 14, 2013, Williamson, J.). 

In this case of Hakim, Judge Williamson again ruled that he found that the UIM carrier Defendant in this case “would be prejudiced by joining the bad faith claims with the contractual claims during trial.  There may be information that is relevant to the bad faith claim that is not relevant to the contractual claims which would prejudice Defendant in the eyes of the jury.   There is no indication at this time that the need for judicial economy outweighs the prejudice.”   See Hakim at p. 11.  

As such, relying in part on his own prior decision in Orsulak, Judge Williamson granted the Motion to Sever the Bad Faith Claim.

However, as noted, Judge Williamson, relying upon the case of Gunn v. Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford, 971 A.2d 505 (Pa. Super. 2009), denied the UIM carrier’s Motion to Stay Discovery.   Judge Williamson also came to the same decision in his own previous Opinion in the case of Orsulak v. Penn National.   The Court ruled in this fashion because “staying all discovery with respect to the bad faith claim would cause unnecessary delay and there were better measures the Court could take to avoid prejudice during the discovery process once prejudice was shown.”  See Hakim at p. 12 [other citations omitted].  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of Judge Williamson's decision in Hakim may click this LINK.

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