Orlando Court Rules on Evidentiary Issues in Bad Faith Insurance Case: Soto v. GEICO Indemnity Co.

The Middle District of Florida in Orlando has refused to allow an automobile insurance company to introduce certain evidence in a bad faith insurance lawsuit. In Soto v. GEICO Indemnity Co., two drivers were involved in a motor vehicle accident in Volusia County, Florida. At the time of the crash, the at-fault driver was insured by GEICO Indemnity Co.  Following the traffic wreck, the other motorist sued the at-fault driver and her insurer for damages related to the injuries the plaintiff allegedly sustained in the auto collision. Following a trial before the Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit in and for Volusia County, the plaintiff obtained a judgment of more than $100,000 against the driver who caused the accident.

The plaintiff later filed a third-party bad faith insurance lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company, alleging the insurer committed bad faith in handling her claim against the other motorist. In Florida, an insurer has a duty to pay a valid insurance claim in good faith and without unreasonable delay. If an insurance company fails to do so, it may be held accountable.

Both parties to the lawsuit reportedly agreed that the only issue at trial was whether the insurer acted in good faith when it handled the plaintiff’s claim against the at-fault driver. Prior to trial, the plaintiff and the insurer filed a number of motions in limine. In general, a motion in limine asks a judge to determine whether certain evidence may be included or excluded before the finder of fact.

Since the issue of liability was determined in a prior lawsuit, the Middle District of Florida barred the automobile insurer from introducing evidence related to accident fault. In addition, the court stated the insurance company could not introduce irrelevant information, such as a copy of the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery in the underlying state court case. The federal court also prohibited the insurer from introducing evidence related to events that occurred outside of trial as well as any part of the plaintiff’s compulsory medical examination report that might be used to contest the at-fault driver’s liability or damages.

The federal court also addressed the insurance company’s request to limit the testimony offered by the plaintiff’s expert witness.  According to the court, the auto insurer failed to demonstrate how the expert’s testimony would be either improper or inadmissible. Finally, the federal court held the insurer’s argument that the issue of the plaintiff’s taxable costs was untimely and reserved judgment for another day.

It is vital for an individual who was hurt in an unexpected automobile accident to ensure the proper evidence is offered at trial. An experienced South Florida personal injury attorney can help. If you were hurt in a car accident that was caused by someone else, you should call Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585. You may also contact our skilled lawyers online.

Additional Resources:

Soto v. GEICO Indemnity Co., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014

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