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Allen v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Alaska

May 22, 2018

ABRAHAM ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, and MICHAEL YOUNT, Defendants.

          ORDER

          H. Russel Holland United States District Judge

         Motion in Limine

         Defendants move[1] to exclude “evidence regarding the actual evaluation” of plaintiff's claim in the liability claim file.[2] This motion is opposed.[3] Oral argument was not requested and is not deemed necessary.

         Background

         Plaintiff Abraham Allen was injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on October 17, 2012. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was driving a vehicle owned by his employer, Alaska's Best Water Product. The vehicle was insured by defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. State Farm opened Claim Number 02-3H19-495 in connection with the claims made against Alaska's Best's policy.[4]

         The driver of the other vehicle, Kris Brandon, was also insured by State Farm. State Farm opened Claim Number 02-13F0-822 in connection with the claims made against Brandon's policy, including a liability claim made by plaintiff.[5] Steve McKitrick was the claim representative who primarily handled plaintiff's liability claim.

         Brandon was determined to be one-hundred percent responsible for the accident, and plaintiff settled his liability claim against Brandon for policy limits of $100, 000. Plaintiff also received $143, 817.21 in Worker's Comp benefits for his injuries arising out of the accident. Plaintiff, however, contended that his damages caused by the accident exceeded these amounts and thus he made a UIM claim under the Alaska's Best policy. Defendant Michael Yount was the claim representative who handled plaintiff's UIM claim.

         State Farm denied plaintiff's UIM claim, and on October 28, 2014, plaintiff commenced this action. In his complaint, plaintiff asserted a UIM claim and bad faith claims.

         Plaintiff's bad faith claims were severed pending the outcome of his UIM claim, which he tried to a jury. On September 2, 2016, the jury awarded plaintiff $354, 480.23 for damages caused by the October 17, 2012 motor vehicle collision.[6]

         As part of his discovery on his bad faith claims, plaintiff requested and State Farm produced the claim file for Claim Number 02-13F0-822 (the liability claim file).[7] In its opening brief, State Farm claimed that Yount did not have access to the information in the liability claim file. However, Yount avers in his declaration offered in support of the instant motion that while he did not “recall reviewing the claim evaluation” in the liability claim file, he believed that he “accessed” the liability claim file “to get the name and contact information of the adjuster assigned to the liability claim so I could contact [him] with questions I had.”[8]

         Defendants now move to exclude plaintiff from offering “all evidence regarding State Farm's handling and evaluation of the claim against Ms. Brandon contained in Claim Number 02-13F0-822. . . .”[9] Defendants contend that this evidence is not relevant or if it is relevant, its probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

         Discussion

         Rule 401, Federal Rules of Evidence, provides: Evidence is relevant if:

(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be ...

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