In Schifino v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., both parties brought motions in limine before the court, seeking to have evidence excluded at the approaching trial.
The court first ruled on the carrier’s motion to preclude the proposed testimony of plaintiff’s expert witness on bad faith. The carrier alleged the concept of bad faith is readily understandable by a lay person, and therefore, expert testimony was not necessary. Conversely, even if expert testimony was necessary, plaintiff’s expert report was objectionable because it merely stated legal conclusions, supported only by the expert’s personal legal interpretation of insurance law and industry standards. Furthermore, the carrier believed the expert’s testimony would opine on the ultimate issue, usurping the jury’s function. Following the precedent set in Smith v. Allstate Ins. Co., the court ruled that expert testimony was not necessary because the bad faith issue (supported with evidence of the carrier’s claim handling procedures, insurance industry practices and standards, and UIPA compliance) was neither “complex nor scientific such that an expert was necessary.” Furthermore, whether or not the insurer had a reasonable basis for the manner in which it handled plaintiff’s claim was “an issue within the providence of the jury as its role as factfinder.”
Plaintiff also sought to preclude the carrier’s expert witness from testifying on the issue of bad faith. Based on the same reasoning it used to grant the carrier’s motion, plaintiff’s motion was granted.
In the third motion, plaintiff sought to preclude the carrier from introducing any evidence of plaintiff’s previous alcoholism and occasional drug use, alleging it would be highly prejudicial. The carrier opposed the motion, believing plaintiff sought the wrong standard for admissibility, that a medical report reflected fairly recent and serious drug use, which could potentially impeach plaintiff’s prior testimony that he used drugs “a couple of times,” and third, that the probative value of the evidence outweighed the prejudice given plaintiff’s claim for damages for permanent injuries, and the fact individuals with such a history have shorter lifespans than the average person. Alternatively, the carrier requested the court admit the evidence with a limiting instruction to the jury. Given the evidence in support of both positions, the court chose to defer the motion until properly raised at trial following the carrier laying the proper foundation.
Finally, plaintiff sought to exclude evidence of two prior criminal convictions of the driver of the automobile in which plaintiff was a passenger when the crash took place. Following no objection from the carrier, the court granted plaintiff’s motion.
Date of Decision: May 31, 2013
Schifino v. Geico Gen. Ins. Co., 2:11-cv-1094, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76532 (W.D. Pa. May 31, 2013) (McVerry, J.).