Policy Limits, Premium, Excluded From Jury In UM/UIM Case

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PHILADELPHIA, July 19 – A federal judge has ruled in a UM/UIM case that neither the policy limits nor the amount of premium paid for the UM/UIM coverage was relevant, and should be excluded from admission into evidence at trial.

U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter granted a motion in limine filed by the insurer, Geico Insurance Company, to exclude these items from the jury’s consideration in a case brought by Darren Lucca for UM/UIM benefits.  Lucca originally filed a complaint in state court,  alleging breach of contract, bad faith, and violation of the UTPCPL, but after the case was removed to federal court only the breach of contract count remained at issue.

The only remaining issue in the case is the extent of damages Lucca allegedly suffered, which will determine whether he is entitled to any UM/UIM benefits, over and above the $75,000.00 Lucca received from the tortfeasor.

Judge Pratter wrote:

“On April 8, 2011, Lucca was involved in a car accident due to the negligence of another motorist, causing him to suffer various personal injuries. At the time, his car was insured by defendant Geico. . . As part of his policy, Lucca had underinsured motorist benefits. The other motorist had $100,000 in coverage through his insurance carrier, which Lucca alleges was insufficient to cover his injuries. . . “Geico denied his claim, believing that Mr. Lucca had received $75,000 from the other motorist’s insurance as an award in binding arbitration, not in settlement, and that therefore the other motorist was not underinsured.”

In granting Geico’s motion in limine, Pratter  observed the very limited amount of available case law on the subject, and ruled that neither the UM/UIM limits, nor the premium paid for those limits was relevant to the issue to be tried — the nature and extent, and therefore the value, of Lucca’s injuries:

“Geico filed a motion in limine, asking the Court to bar Lucca from offering evidence or testimony regarding the amount of underinsured motorist coverage provided for in the insurance policy at issue or regarding the amount of any premiums paid for the coverage. . . Indeed, not only is the policy limit irrelevant in this case, introducing evidence of the policy limit may very well serve to prejudice Geico by giving the jury an anchor number that has no bearing on Lucca’s damages. . . For these reasons, the Court will exclude at trial any mention of the policy limits or the amount of premiums paid. Once a verdict has been rendered by the jury on the amount of damages suffered by Lucca, the Court can mold the verdict appropriately to reflect the limits of both Lucca’s policy and the third party tortfeasor’s policy. . . ”

“The only issue for the jury to decide in this matter is the extent of Mr. Lucca’s injuries from the accident. That Mr. Lucca’s policy includes a $900,000 underinsured motorist limit or that his stepfather paid a certain amount in premiums for the policy does not have ‘any tendency to make (any fact at issue in this case) more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.”

Lucca v. Geico, E.D. Pa., July 7, 2016 (Pratter, J.)

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Author: CJ Haddick

C.J. Haddick is a Director with the law firm of Dickie, McCamey, & Chilcote, PC, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. He has advised and represented insurers in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation for more than a quarter of a century, and written and spoken throughout the United States on insurance coverage and bad faith prevention and litigation. He is Managing Director of the firm's Harrisburg, Pa. office. Reach him at chaddick@dmclaw.com or 717-731-4800.

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