Monday, May 15, 2017

Motion to Bifurcate Trial of Post-Koken UIM/Bad Faith Claims Denied in Eastern Federal District Court of Pennsylvania

In the recent Federal Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania case of Reeves v. Travelers Cos., No. 16-6448 (E.D. Pa. April 11, 2017 Baylson, J.), the court denied an insurance company’s Motion to Bifurcate the UIM Bad Faith and Breach of Contract Claims arising out of a motor vehicle accident. 

The carrier argued that the evidence and testimony regarding the bad faith claim would be irrelevant to the breach of contract UIM claim and would only confuse the jury on the case presented.   

The carrier also asserted that evidence from the bad faith claim would unduly influence the jury’s decision against the carrier in the breach of contract claim.   

The carrier additionally asserted that, if the breach of contract claim was resolved or concluded in favor of the carrier, then the bad faith claim would be rendered moot.  

The Plaintiff asserted, in part, that bifurcation would be inefficient because the carrier’s conduct alleged in the bad faith claim was the very same type of conduct alleged in support of the breach of contract claim. 

The court found that the carrier did not meet its burden of demonstrating that the prejudice it would face from trying both claims together would outweigh the detrimental effects of bifurcation upon the parties in the court in terms of judicial economy.   The court noted that bifurcating the matter would unnecessary prolong the case.   The court additionally stated that, while the two claims were separate, the evidence related to both claims was similar.   The court found that presenting the same evidence to two separate juries would constitute a waste of resources.  

The court also rejected the carrier’s position that a finding for the carrier on the breach of contract claim would automatically render the bad faith claim moot.  In this regard, the court stated that Pennsylvania law allows for the recovery for bad faith due to an undue delay in processing a claim.  

Anyone wishing to read this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Lee Applebaum of the Philadelphia law office of Fineman, Krekstein & Harris and the writer of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Insurance Bad Faith Law blog for bringing this decision to my attention.  


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