Monday, November 14, 2022

Federal Court Addresses Right to Identify Insurance Carrier Defendant By Name at Post-Koken Trial; Also Compels Both Parties to Present Medical Experts as Live Witnesses

In the case of Whitlock v. Allstate Fire & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 2:20-CV-00373-KSM (E.D. Pa. Oct. 13, 2022 Marston, J.), the court addressed various Motions In Limine.

At a pre-trial conference, Allstate requested to be referred to at the trial in the name of the non-party tortfeasor as opposed to as "Allstate."  This the court refused.    

Of note, the court ruled that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 411, regarding the admissibility of insurance evidence, applies only where negligence or other wrongful conduct is at issue. The court noted that this rule did not apply in a contract action involving an insurance company.

The court also found that evidence that the Defendant is an insurance company being sued under a policy of insurance was not unduly prejudicial under F.R.C.P. 403. The court noted that Pennsylvania law does not exclude insurance evidence under these circumstances.

As such, the court found that Allstate had not established a reason to use another name for the carrier at trial or that the carrier would be prejudiced by the use of its name at trial in front of the jury.    

In another notable ruling in this decision, the court stated that, before a witness’ recorded deposition testimony is admissible in lieu of live testimony, there must be an exceptional showing of reasons for the witness’ unavailability.

The court stated that the fact that medical witnesses are busy seeing other patients is not an exceptional circumstance. The Court stated that it is well known that doctors are almost always busy. The court stated that, to recognize a “busy witness” exception would expand the exception to swallow the rule favoring live testimony.

As such, the court compelled both parties to present their medical expert's testimonies live at trial instead of by way of video deposition.    

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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