Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Schifino v. Geico General Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 31, 2013

NICHOLAS SCHIFINO, Plaintiff,
v.
GEICO GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY a corporation, ALLIED INSURANCE COMPANY and ELECTRIC INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

TERRENCE F. McVERRY, District Judge.

In anticipation of trial, Plaintiff Nicholas Schifino and Defendant Geico General Insurance Company ("Geico") have filed Motions in Limine. The Motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

Geico's Motion in Limine to Preclude Proposed Testimony of Stuart Setcavage (ECF No. 69)

Geico requests that the Court preclude Plaintiff's expert witness, Stuart Setcavage, from offering any testimony on the bad faith claim at trial. Geico first argues that the concept of bad faith is readily understandable by a lay person, and therefore, expert testimony is not necessary. Geico alternatively contends that should the Court permit expert testimony, Setcavage's expert report remains objectionable because his opinions are nothing more than legal conclusions unsupported by any specialized knowledge and are only based on his personal interpretation of the law and insurance industry standards. Moreover, Geico also objects to the anticipated testimony of Setcavage based on its expectation that he will opine on the ultimate issue and usurp the jury's function.

Plaintiff opposes this motion in its entirety. Relying principally on the analysis set forth in Gallatin Fuels, Inc. v. Westchester Fire Ins. Co., 410 F.Supp.2d 417 (W.D. Pa. 2006), Plaintiff argues that the testimony of Setcavage would assist the jury in understanding whether Geico complied with insurance statutes and regulations, industry standards, claims adjusting procedures, and other related matters. Plaintiff also attempts to distinguish Smith v. Allstate Ins. Co., 3:11-CV-165, 2012 WL 5463099 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 8, 2012), offering little beyond his observation that those two cases are apparently in tension. Responding to Geico's alternative argument, Plaintiff recounts the apparent industry expertise of Setcavage and the many conclusions offered in his expert report.

The Court certainly has concerns about many of the legal conclusions in Setcavage's expert report and the bases upon which they were reached, but it need not definitively rule on that issue. Cf. Gallatin Fuels, Inc., 410 F.Supp.2d at 422 ("Although expert testimony may be helpful to the fact-finder in a bad faith case, an expert may not give an opinion as to the ultimate legal conclusion that an insurer acted in bad faith' in violation of applicable law.") (citation omitted). For the reasons that follow, the Court instead concludes that expert testimony is not necessary in this case.

The Court finds the well-reasoned analysis in Smith instructive. See 2012 WL 5463099, at **6-9. In that case, the district court set forth the following standard for admitting expert testimony in bad faith claims:

With respect to [the insurance company's] first contention - that the issue on which [the expert witness] will testify is neither complex nor scientific and does not require specialized skill or knowledge to discern - the Court finds that [the expert witness's] testimony is "not excludable simply because he proposes to testify with respect to Plaintiff's bad faith claims." Gallatin Fuels, Inc. v. Westchester Fire Ins. Co., 410 F.Supp.2d 417, 421 (W.D. Pa.2006). Although expert testimony is not required to prove an insured's bad faith claim in an action against an insurer, see, e.g., Bergman v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 742 A.2d 1101, 1109 (Pa.Super.1999); Bonenberger v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 791 A.2d 378, 382 (Pa. Super. 2002), such testimony may be admitted if it is helpful to the trier of fact and is otherwise admissible. Gallatin Fuels, 410 F.Supp.2d at 421; see Bonenberger, 791 A.2d at 382. The admission of expert testimony in bad faith insurance actions rests within the sound discretion of the trial court. Bonenberger, 791 A.2d at 382 (citing Bergman, 742 A.2d at 1108-09).

Smith, 2012 WL 5463099, at *6. See McCrink v. Peoples Benefit Life Ins. Co., 2:04-CV-01068-LDD, 2005 WL 730688, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 29, 2005) ("However, under Pennsylvania law, expert testimony is permitted when deemed relevant, such as in claims involving complex or highly technical insurance issues.") (citation omitted). Applying those standards, the court concluded that the issues on which the expert was to testify - Allstate's claim handling procedures, its insurance industry practices and standards, the Pennsylvania Unfair Insurance Practices Act ("UIPA") and its compliance with each - were neither particularly complex nor scientific such that an expert was necessary. Smith, 2012 WL 5463099, at *6 Smith, 2012 WL 5463099, at *6. For the sake of completeness, the Smith Court also concluded that the expert's interpretation and application of the UIPA was inappropriate testimony and that his personal interpretations of the law are outside the scope of expert testimony.[1] See id. at **6-8.

Much like that case, the Courts exercises its discretion and finds that the concept of bad faith is within the ken of the average layperson such that expert testimony is not necessary in this matter. A reasonable juror certainly possesses the requisite knowledge to assess the bad faith allegation, which is equally neither particularly complex nor scientific. Rather, that claim involves whether GEICO has a reasonable basis for the manner in which it handled Plaintiff's claim, an issue within the province of the jury as its role as factfinder. Accordingly, Geico's motion is GRANTED, and the Court hereby precludes any expert witness testimony from Stuart Setcavage.

Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Preclude Proposed Testimony of David Obermeier, Esquire (ECF No. 76)

Plaintiff likewise seeks to preclude Geico's expert witness, David Obermeier, Esq., from testifying in this matter. For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED, and the Court hereby bars any expert witness testimony from Mr. Obermeier.

Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence of Substance Abuse (ECF No. 72)

Plaintiff also moves for the Court to preclude Geico from introducing any evidence of his previous alcoholism diagnosis and/or his prior drug use. The evidence regarding this issue was discovered during the deposition of Plaintiff in which he admitted (1) that he was diagnosed as an alcoholic "when he was a kid, " but he has not consumed any alcohol in over twenty years; and (2) that he tried cocaine "a couple of times" when "he was younger, " but he does not recall how often he used it or the last occasion on which he "tried" the drug. ECF No. 72-1 at 1-3. Plaintiff now argues that "[t]his evidence falls far short of establishing a chronic drug problem that would impact on [his] life expectancy, " apparently the applicable standard for the admissibility of such evidence. ECF ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.