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Morris v. Zurich American Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

October 18, 2018

MELISSA A. MORRIS Plaintiff
v.
ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY ET AL. Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge.

         These matters are before the Court on Defendant's, Zurich American Insurance Company (“Zurich”), and Plaintiff's, Melissa A. Morris (“Morris”), respective motions in limine. (R. 75; R. 82). Zurich and Morris have responded (R. 83; R. 86). These matters are now ripe for adjudication. Each motion will be addressed in turn.

         Background

         Morris was injured in an automobile accident on September 18, 2008. (R. 1). In July of 2016, she sued Zurich alleging bad faith concerning its handling of her claim. (R. 1). With the trial date approaching, both Zurich and Morris have filed motions in limine. (R. 75; R. 82).

         Legal Standard

         Motions in limine provided in advance of trial are appropriate if they eliminate evidence that has no legitimate use at trial for any purpose. Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir.1997); Bouchard v. Am. Home Products Corp., 213 F.Supp.2d 802, 810 (N.D.Ohio 2002) (“The court has the power to exclude evidence in limine only when evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” (citing Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n. 4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984))). Only where the evidence satisfies this high bar should the court exclude it; if not, “rulings [on evidence] should be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation, relevancy and potential prejudice may be resolved in proper context.” Gresh v. Waste Servs. of Am., Inc., 738 F.Supp.2d 702, 706 (E.D.Ky.2010) (quoting Ind. Ins. Co. v. GE, 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D.Ohio 2004)). Even if a motion in limine is denied, the court may revisit the decision at trial when the parties have more thoroughly presented the disputed evidence. See Id. (“Denial of a motion in limine does not guarantee that the evidence will be admitted at trial, and the court will hear objections to such evidence as they arise at trial.”).

         Discussion

         The Court will start with Zurich's motion, and then proceed to Morris's. (R. 77; R. 82).

         A. Zurich's Motion in Limine

         1. Zurich American's Financial Condition

         Zurich argues that any mention of its financial condition should be excluded pursuant to longstanding Kentucky precedent. (R. 77 ID # 992). Morris argues that Zurich's financial condition is relevant to her bad faith claims, which involve punitive damages. (R. 86 ID # 1180). The Court agrees with Zurich. Hamilton v. CSX Transp., Inc., 208 S.W.3d 272, 280 (Ky. Ct. App. 2006) (“Our courts have long held that evidence of a party's financial status should be excluded at trial because of the danger of prejudice that such evidence creates.”); Nami Res. Co., L.L.C. v. Asher Land & Mineral, L.T.D., Nos. 2015-SC-000489-DG, 2016-SC-000235-DG, 2018 Ky. LEXIS 353, at *30 (Aug. 16, 2018) (citing Hardaway Management Co. v. Southerland, 977 S.W.2d 910, 916, 4512 Ky. L. Summary 23 (Ky. 1998) (“It has been the law of this Commonwealth for almost one hundred years that in an action for punitive damages, the parties may not present evidence or otherwise advise the jury of the financial condition of either side of the litigation.”)). Thus, any mention of Zurich's financial condition is excluded.

         2. Time-Value of Tort Settlement Proceeds

         Zurich concedes that under Kentucky law, a plaintiff alleging bad faith may recover what the settlement proceeds would have earned during the time they were withheld. (R. 77 ID # 992). But Zurich contends that to do so, such damages must first be proven through an expert. (R. 77 ID # 992). Because Morris, has no such expert, Zurich argues to exclude all evidence and argument regarding such damages. (R. 77 ID # 992). In response, Morris asserts that she is entitled to the statutory rate of interest for the time during which her settlement was withheld as prescribed by KRS 304.12-235 and/or KRS 360.040. (R. 86 ID # 1180). The Parties' arguments are premature. This issue will be addressed by the Court if Morris should prevail on her bad faith claim. At that time, if such a time occurs, the Court will determine the appropriate interest rate and amount.

         3. ...


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