Friday, January 11, 2019

A Split of Authority Continues With Respect to Allowing Expert Testimony in Insurance Bad Faith Cases

In the case of Debellis v. Mid-Century Ins. Co., No. 18-CV-214 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 25, 2018 Schwab, J.), the court addressed a Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine to preclude the carrier’s bad faith expert in this UIM bad faith litigation.  

The court observed that there continues to be a split of authority on whether expert testimony concerning a carrier’s bad faith is permissible and noted that this was a controversial issue.  

Nevertheless, this particular court allowed the carrier to put on its bad faith expert with certain limitations.

The court in Debellis found that expert testimony may be appropriate with respect to issues such as insurance claims adjusting procedures, a carrier’s compliance with industry customs and standards, and whether the carrier lacked a reasonable basis for denying a Plaintiff’s claim.  

In this federal court case, after noting that this matter involved a non-jury trial and that the court was familiar with bad faith law, the Debellis court concluded that the expert testimony offered by the carrier might assist the judge as the trier of fact “assuming [the carrier’s] claims handling procedures are complex.”   

However, the court otherwise held that the expert could not testify or give opinions that the court ultimately construed as legal conclusions.  

Judge Schwab additionally noted that he would give the expert testimony appropriate weight and caution that the testimony could be disregarded if it appeared to be nothing more than speculation unsupported by any specialized knowledge. 

Anyone wishing to review this decision may click this LINK.

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

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