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Wyckoff v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

October 31, 2006

ROBERT G. WYCKOFF, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY AND KENNETH F. KACZMAREK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

Defendants Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") and Kenneth F. Kaczmarek ("Kaczmarek") (collectively, "Defendants") have filed a Motion in Limine (Docket No. 86) seeking to exclude from evidence at trial Plaintiff's Exhibit Nos. 21, 39, 40, 41, 42, 46, 52, 55, 58, 112, and 113, all of which are documents authored by or referencing former MetLife employee James Rayl and his concerns regarding sales practices associated with the accelerated premium program.*fn1 Plaintiff opposes Defendants' Motion. (Docket No. 108). After careful review, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part as follows.

I. ANALYSIS

A. Exhibit Nos. 21, 39, 40, 52, 55, and 58

Defendants argue that Exhibit Nos. 21, 39, 40, 52, 55, and 58*fn2 are irrelevant because they concern sales that occurred prior to the transactions in this case and therefore, have no relation to the issues in this case. Defs.' Br. (Docket No. 87) at 3-5.

I disagree. Rayl's concerns regarding deceptive sales tactics are substantially similar to the allegations raised by Plaintiff in connection with his policies. Thus, the documents may be relevant in establishing a pattern and practice on the part of MetLife, or a corporate culture encouraging similar deceptive sales techniques. The timing of the transactions in the documents goes to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility.

I also disagree that these proposed exhibits are irrelevant because they do not specifically mention Pennsylvania. Plaintiff alleges that MetLife agents used the same deceptive sales techniques on a national level, and the documents support this assertion. Again, the fact that the documents fail to mention Pennsylvania goes to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility.

In short, I find that proposed Exhibit Nos. 21, 39, 40, 52, 55, and 58 are relevant to Plaintiff's claims in this case. I also find that this probative value is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to Defendants.

I also disagree with Defendants that these documents are categorically inadmissible as hearsay.*fn3 As an initial matter, Plaintiff indicates that he will be able to establish at trial that the documents are business records within the meaning of Rule 803(6).*fn4 Plaintiff also argues that Rayl's statements are admissible as admissions of a party-opponent, an argument not addressed by Defendants. Fed. R. Evid. 801. Even if the statements are neither admissions nor business records within the meaning of the Rules of Evidence, however, I find that these exhibits may be admissible under the "residual" hearsay exception set forth in Rule 807.*fn5

Defendants' Motion is granted, however, to the extent the exhibits contain hearsay within hearsay, such as Rayl's description of what a customer said, to the extent such statements are offered for the truth of the matter asserted therein, and no independent hearsay exception applies. Fed. R. Evid. 805. Plaintiff has not identified any such exceptions. Defendants' Motion also is granted with respect to any "expert"-type opinions contained in the exhibits at issue. Rayl is not an expert witness and, thus, any opinions properly within the realm of an expert are inadmissible.

A final issue exists with respect to the document attached to Defendants' Motion as proposed Exhibit 58. Docket No. 86, Ex. B. Although this document mentions Rayl and his concerns, proposed Exhibit 58 was neither written by nor addressed to Rayl -- unlike the other exhibits at issue in Defendants' Motion. Thus, it is unclear to me how Plaintiff intends to introduce this document at trial. In addition, although the parties do not specifically discuss the article attached to Exhibit 58, that article appears to be replete with hearsay. The portions of the article discussing MetLife also strike me as unfairly prejudicial. For these reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted to the extent it seeks to exclude the article attached to Plaintiff's proposed Exhibit No. 58. If Plaintiff plans to introduce the remainder of Exhibit 58 at trial (i.e., the letter itself), he must lay an appropriate foundation as well as obviate any hearsay and/or authentication concerns.

B. Exhibit Nos. 41 and 42

Proposed Exhibit No. 41 is a December 23, 1992 letter from Rayl to David G. Martin, Vice President, Mid-America Territory, regarding Rayl's deceptive sales practice concerns. (Docket No. 86, Ex. C). Proposed Exhibit 42 is a December 31, 1992 letter from Rayl to Kathy Schoos, Director of Customer Services and Communications in MetLife's Warwick Customer Service Center, thanking Schoos for writing a letter in support of his concerns. Id. Defendants argue that these exhibits are irrelevant, prejudicial, and inadmissible hearsay. Defs.' Br. (Docket No. 87) at 5-6.

I disagree that Exhibits 41 and 42 are irrelevant and/or unfairly prejudicial. As with the exhibits discussed above, Exhibits 41 and 42 are probative as to a pattern and practice on the part of MetLife, or a corporate culture encouraging similar deceptive sales techniques. Exhibit 42 is relevant for the additional reason that it shows that the director of MetLife's Warwick customer service center (the only other MetLife call center at the time) shared the same concerns as Rayl. Thus, Exhibit 42 undercuts any assertion by Defendants that Rayl's concerns were confined to ...


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