MAY 2009 BAD FAITH CASES BAD FAITH PROCEDURES AT TRIAL LEVEL OBSERVED BY APPELLATE COURT, INCLUDING BARRING EXPERT TESTIMONY ON BAD FAITH & ORDER OF JURY & BENCH TRIALS (Superior Court)
In Prime Medica Associates v. Valley Forge Insurance Company, the Superior Court did not address any bad faith issues on appeal, but did observe bad faith case litigation procedures in the trial court, in setting forth the case background.
The insured sought to put on an attorney as an expert on bad faith. The trial court granted a motion in limine preventing the lawyer from testifying about bad faith. The court permitted the attorney to testify about coverage, but the judge would determine the bad faith issue without the expert at a bench trial, if the jury found there was coverage.
The judge also granted a motion in limine precluding the insured from putting on evidence of bad faith to the jury. If the jury found no coverage there would be no bad faith determination necessary. The jury did in fact find coverage, and then at the subsequent bench trial on bad faith, the judge ruled for the insured. None of these issues were the subject of the appeal, but are useful observations of practice in the trial court.
The trial court’s opinion is out of Philadelphia’s Commerce Court. In that opinion, in discussing the bench trial on bad faith after the jury verdict, the trial judge stated: “After much soul searching, this court denied plaintiff’s bad faith claim.” The appellate court reversed the verdict on the contract claims on the basis that suit was untimely.