Tampa Federal Court Allows Untimely Expert Testimony in Bad Faith Insurance Case

In Hayas v. GEICO General Insurance Co., a man negligently caused a motor vehicle collision that tragically killed another individual. When the traffic wreck occurred, the man carried liability insurance that was limited to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. Following the fatal crash, the decedent’s estate filed a complaint against the negligent driver and his automobile insurance company. Although a settlement opportunity apparently arose, the insurer allegedly declined to settle the case. Following a jury trial, the decedent’s estate secured a $1.6 million judgment against the driver.

After the judgment was rendered, the driver instituted a bad faith insurance case against his liability insurance company in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa. In support of his case, the negligent driver filed a supplemental expert disclosure with the federal court. The insurance company responded by filing a motion to strike and asked the court to exclude the man’s proposed expert witness and prohibit the witness from offering any testimony in the case.

First, the Tampa court said it had broad discretion to admit or deny evidence. The court next addressed the insurer’s claim that the driver’s motion was untimely. After reviewing the parties’ submissions to the court, the Middle District of Florida stated it would not strike the expert in the interest of fairness, even though the driver’s request was untimely. According to the court, the auto insurer was not prejudiced by the late disclosure, and there was no surprise to the company.

Next, the federal court addressed the insurance company’s assertion that the driver sought to circumvent Federal Rule 26(a)(2)(B). The court said whether expert testimony is admitted at trial is governed by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Under the rule, the district court is tasked with determining whether evidence is both relevant and reliable. The Tampa court added that the exclusion of expert testimony is generally the exception, since Rule 702 was amended to reflect United States Supreme Court precedent in Daubert.

Finally, the Middle District of Florida said it was too early in the case to determine whether the proffered expert testimony should be excluded. The Tampa court then stated the negligent driver will need to qualify his proffered expert at trial and added that the insurer is still free to raise the same objection in the future. Finally, the Middle District of Florida denied the automobile insurance company’s motion to strike the proposed expert witness.

If you were injured in a South Florida motor vehicle collision, you need a quality attorney on your side to advocate on your behalf. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a caring Miami personal injury lawyer, do not hesitate to contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. through our website or give us a call today at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Hayas v. GEICO General Insurance Co., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014

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