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Dziadek v. The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 2, 2016

LAURA DZIADEK, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CHARTER OAK FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, D/B/A TRAVELERS, Defndant.

ORDER ON 27 PENDING MOTIONS

ROBERTO A. LANGE, District Judge.

Laura Dziadek (Dziadek) has sued The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company d/b/a Travelers (Charter Oak). On April 29, 2016, this Court conducted a pretrial conference and motion hearing. During the hearing, this Court allowed argument on the twenty-seven separate motions filed since April 12, 2016, on which this Court had not already ruled. This Court ruled on many of those motions from the bench. Most of the pending motions were motions in limine and, when ruling on such motions in limine, this Court is making preliminary rulings that certain evidence and topics are or are not admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. If ruled inadmissible, of course, such evidence and topics shall not be mentioned before the jury during voir dire, opening statements, witness questioning, or otherwise. If there is good cause for this Court to reconsider a ruling, such as the opposing party opening the proverbial door to admission of such previously excluded evidence, the parties are to address the matter to this Court outside the hearing of the jury and before seeking to introduce the evidence or topic before the jury.

For good cause and for reasons given during the pretrial conference and motion hearing, it is hereby

ORDERED that Charter Oak's motion to bifurcate punitive damages, Doc. 165, is granted to the extent that evidence of Charter Oak's financial net worth and any other such evidence exclusively related to punitive damages shall not be admissible in the first phase of the jury trial and that, if there is a jury verdict for bad faith or fraud or deceit, there will be a phase two to the jury trial for evidence, argument, and instruction on punitive damages. Of course, evidence from the first phase of the trial would not need to be re-introduced in the second phase of the trial to be used. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's first motion in limine to exclude argument and evidence concerning Torres v. Travelers Insurance Company, Doc. 176, is granted, although it is possible that, in cross-examination of experts, matters learned in Torres regarding the TTIC compensation plan history could become admissible, though not the Torres case, facts or verdict. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's second motion in limine to exclude argument and evidence of its corporate practices, Doc. 177, is denied in part and granted in part. Dziadek will be allowed to introduce evidence of corporate policies of Charter Oak and its claims handler The Travelers Indemnity Company (TTIC) that were in effect at the time of the claims handling and alleged claim denial, such as the "knowledge guide" or claims manual, as long as those policies arguably were applied or arguably should have been applied to the handling ofDziadek's claims. In addition, Dziadek may introduce evidence of the "scorecards" for Faith Styles and Timothy Westbrook for 2008 through 2012; relevant parts of the TTIC compensation plan for those categories of TTIC representatives involved in handling Dziadek's claim; performance-management reviews for 2008 through 2012 for Styles, Westbrook, Patricia Palaniuk, and Brian Koerner; and parts of the relevant training materials for classes at TTIC attended by those individuals during the relevant time. Dziadek also may introduce relevant parts of performance reviews for a time reasonably close to the time period at issue, which is 2008 through 2012, for those who were involved in the processing and handling of Dziadek's inquiry and claim. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's third motion in limine to exclude argument and evidence regarding "Travelers, " Doc. 178, is denied to the extent that evidence regarding the relationship whereby TTIC did claims handling for Charter Oak is relevant, as are certain TTIC documents referenced in the ruling on the second motion in limine above and elsewhere in this order. This motion in limine otherwise is granted with respect to any other Travelers entity or affiliate. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's fourth motion in limine to exclude argument and evidence regarding breach of contract damages, Doc. 180, is granted in part and denied in part. For the reasons contained in a prior Opinion and Order, Doc. 153, Dziadek has a viable breach of contract claim. The jury will have to decide if Charter Oak prevented Dziadek from formalizing an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim at a time earlier than February of 2012, and, if so, when Charter Oak otherwise would have owed UIM benefits as well as automobile medical payments (AMP) benefits to Dziadek. Charter Oak cannot now contest that Dziadek was an insured for AMP benefits. See Doc. 218. If there is a jury verdict favorable to Dziadek, this Court then will calculate prejudgment interest based on the jury verdict and determine what attorney's fees may be recoverable under SDCL ยง 58-12-3. It is further

ORDERED that ruling on Charter Oak's fifth motion in limine regarding bad faith damages, Doc. 181, is deferred until this Court hears evidence on Dziadek's damage claims. How to instruct the jury on bad faith damages in light of Paulsen v. Ability Ins. Co., 906 F.Supp.2d 909 (D.S.D. 2012), Stene v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., 583 N.W.2d 399 (S.D. 1998), and Fix v. First State Bank of Roscoe, 807 N.W.2d 612 (S.D. 2011) will be determined in final instructions. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's sixth motion in limine to exclude evidence about what Dziadek's counsel would have done if Charter Oak had revealed that there was UIM and AMP coverage for Dziadek in February of 2009, Doc. 182, is denied. Although this Court will not allow "speculation based on hindsight, " the testimony Charter Oak seeks to exclude from attorney Jeffrey Cole is relevant to the jury determination on possible breach of contract and the calculation of damages therefor. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's seventh motion in limine to exclude argument and evidence concerning alleged fraud and deceit, Doc. 183, is denied for the reasons contained in this Court's prior Opinion and Order, Doc. 153, and Opinion and Order on reconsideration motions, Doc. 218. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's eighth motion in limine to exclude privileged communications with Charter Oak attorney Dawn Midkiff, Doc. 184, is granted with respect to communications that were in fact privileged. However, the grant of this motion in limine does not preclude introduction of evidence concerning any conversation involving Midkiff ruled not to be covered by the attorney-client privilege, see Doc. 70, because Charter Oak had waived any such claim previously, and further does not preclude testimony about information allegedly being kept from Midkiff. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's ninth motion in limine to exclude argument and evidence regarding the "Good Faith Claim Handling" presentation, Doc. 185, which Dziadek calls the "slide deck, " is granted only to the extent that the Court reserves ruling on the admissibility of such evidence until trial when its relevancy and foundation, if any, can be shown. This Court further reserves ruling on the $100 million "loss cost reduction" slide or document from 2010 until trial when its relevancy and foundation, if any, can be shown. It is further

ORDERED that Charter Oak's tenth motion in limine to exclude argument and evidence of Dziadek's physical injuries, Doc. 187, is denied to the extent that information in Charter Oak or TTIC's files through February of 2012 regarding Dziadek's physical injuries is relevant and not more unfairly prejudicial than probative. This Court intends to allow some evidence of Dziadek's physical injuries from the motor vehicle accident in evidence as that is relevant to when justification existed to pay AMP and UIM limits, but may restrict such evidence as more unfairly ...


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