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Bodnar v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 15, 2013

STEPHEN BODNAR, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONWIDE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY and AMCO INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROBERT D. MARIANI, District Judge.

On October 8, 2013, this Court heard oral argument on Defendant's Motion entitled "Motion re: Judicial Notice of Adjudicative Facts." (Doc. 43.) The Motion was filed in a lawsuit concerning Defendant Nationwide/Amco Insurance's alleged bad faith handling of Plaintiff Bodnar's insurance claim. Bodnar filed a claim for indemnification after one James Berry died while working on his property and after Berry's wife filed a lawsuit against Bodnar. However, because this Opinion is written primarily for the benefit of the parties, the Court will dispense with additional factual background.

Defendant's present Motion requested that the Court take judicial notice of three "facts, " to wit:

1. During all relevant times, there has been asplit in case law authority as to the definition of "employee" in Pennsylvania;
2. During all relevant times, there has been no "hard and fast" rule under Pennsylvania law for determining whether a particular relationship is that of employer-employee; and
3. During all relevant times, this Court had determined that the definition of "temporary worker" used in the insurance policy at issue is not ambiguous.

(Def.'s Mot. for Judicial Notice, Doc. 43, at 6.)

These issues could be vitally important to the resolution of this case. Nationwide argues that its delay in handling Bodnar's claim and its seeking a declaratory judgment of its duties with respect to such claim were both reasonable responses to an ambiguity in the law, as it was allegedly unclear whether the decedent Berry qualified as Bodnar's employee at the time of his death-in which case Bodnar would not be entitled to indemnification-or whether he was just a temporary worker-in which case Bodnar would be so entitled. But if the Court were to grant judicial notice, then the entire issue of whether Defendant acted reasonably could be short-circuited, because, if the Court were to pronounce the law "ambiguous, " then it would be much easier for Defendant to argue that its actions in an unclear area of law were reasonable.

Nonetheless, the Court cannot agree that judicial notice is appropriate. It will therefore deny the motion, for the following reasons.

First, the Court cannot agree that the facts for which Defendant seeks notice are even "adjudicative facts" at all. The text of the judicial notice rule states:

The Court may judicially notice a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it:...
(2) can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.

FED. R. EVID. 201 (b). Moreover, "[t]his rule governs judicial notice of an adjudicative fact only, not a legislative fact." Id. at 201 (a). As the Advisory Committee Notes explain,

Adjudicative facts are simply the facts of the particular case. Legislative facts, on the other hand, are those which have relevance to legal reasoning and the lawmaking process, whether in the formulation of a legal principle or ruling by a judge or court or in the enactment of a legislative body.... The usual method of establishing adjudicative facts is through the introduction of evidence, ordinarily consisting of the testimony of witnesses. If particular facts are outside the area of ...

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