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Charles A. Shadid, LLC v. Aspen Specialty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

July 13, 2018

CHARLES A. SHADID, L.L.C., Plaintiff,
v.
ASPEN SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY D.DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion in Limine [Doc. No. 87] and Defendant's Motion in Limine [Doc. No. 79], which are fully briefed and at issue.

         This case concerns insurance coverage for property damage from a May 31, 2013 tornado allegedly affecting approximately 20 commercial properties owned by Plaintiff, under a policy issued by Defendant in August 2012. See Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 8], ¶¶ 4, 6. The Court has denied summary judgment to Defendant on Plaintiff's claims for breach of contract and insurer's bad faith. Both parties seek pretrial rulings on the admissibility of evidence that may be offered at the jury trial currently set on the Court's August 14, 2018 docket. Upon consideration of the issues raised by the parties' Motions, the Court makes the following determinations.

         A. Plaintiff's Motion in Limine

         Plaintiff seeks to exclude evidence and argument regarding three subject areas: 1) any claim by Defendant that it is not responsible for any loss during the policy period on a date other than May 31, 2013; 2) any defense to coverage that was not asserted by Defendant as a basis for denying Plaintiff's insurance claim; and 3) any information or evidence that Defendant obtained after it denied Plaintiff's insurance claim.

         In response, Defendant contends Plaintiff is seeking dispositive legal rulings that should have been raised by a motion for summary judgment. Defendant notes that Plaintiff does not cite any evidentiary rules or refer to any particular testimony or exhibits but, instead, argues in support of the Motion that the Court should issue pretrial rulings as a matter of law concerning the reach of the insurance policy and available defenses. For ease of discussion, the Court addresses Plaintiff's propositions in reverse order.

         1. After-Acquired Evidence

         Plaintiff seeks to exclude all evidence that Defendant obtained after it denied Plaintiff's insurance claim. Plaintiff relies on Buzzard v. Farmers Ins. Co., 824 P.2d 1105 (Okla. 1991), and Newport v. USAA, 11 P.3d 190 (Okla. 2000), for the proposition that the focus of a bad faith claim is the time period that a claim is being reviewed and that evidence developed later is inadmissible on the issue of bad faith. As noted by Defendant, Plaintiff presents this argument as a legal rule, without reference to any particular evidence or any evidentiary rule.

         Plaintiff proposes an unworkable evidentiary ruling for the trial of this case, which involves contested issues of coverage and alleged bad faith conduct. One of Defendant's reasons for denying the insurance claim was that Plaintiff allegedly did not cooperate in the investigation. To show that Plaintiff failed to provide available information and that Defendant was prejudiced by the failure, Defendant will need to introduce information and documents that it subsequently obtained from Plaintiff or others. Another trial issue is the amount of Plaintiff's insured loss. Defendant is entitled to rebut Plaintiff's proof on this issue and to use presently-available, admissible evidence in defense of Plaintiff's case.

         In short, the Court rejects Plaintiff's implicit argument that all evidence obtained by Defendant after it made a coverage decision is irrelevant to the trial issues. The Court is unable to rule categorically in advance of trial that all after-acquired evidence should be excluded.

         2. Available Defenses

         Closely related to Plaintiff's requested ruling regarding available evidence, Plaintiff asks the Court to bar Defendant from asserting any coverage defenses other than the reasons given for its decision to deny Plaintiff's insurance claim. Again, the Court finds itself unable to rule categorically as an evidentiary matter that Defendant should be limited to certain arguments or defenses. Plaintiff should object at trial, as appropriate to particular testimony or items of evidence, if Defendant delves into irrelevant matters.

         3. Covered Losses

         Plaintiff argues that the coverage issue should not be limited to property damage resulting from the May 31, 2013 storm and, thus, Defendant should be prohibited from asserting that other weather events during the policy period cannot be considered in support of Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff asserts that “insurance policy coverage is a matter for the Court's determination, ” and urges the Court to “decide as a matter of law” that Defendant is “responsible for covered property damage occurring within the policy period.” See Pl.s' Mot. at 2, 6. The Court agrees with Defendant that Plaintiff appears to be seeking a dispositive ruling on a substantive issue, rather than an evidentiary ruling. Plaintiff, through counsel, may advocate at trial after a full ...


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