Less Than Two Weeks Before Trial, District Court Judge In Utica V. Fireman’s Fund Rules On Motions In Limine

Carlton Fields
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This case concerns an action filed by Utica Mutual Insurance Company (Utica) against its reinsurer, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company (FFIC) seeking to enforce certain reinsurance contracts against FFIC with respect to $35,000,000 Utica spent in settling a dispute with its insured, Goulds, regarding coverage for thousands of asbestos claims from the 1990s. Presently at issue were (1) Utica’s motion to preclude FFIC’s expert Garrett Redmond, (2) FFIC’s motion to preclude five specific evidentiary matters, and (3) Utica’s omnibus motion in limine regarding various evidentiary issues it anticipated to arise at trial.

Utica sought to preclude Redmond from offering testimony that Utica misrepresented or omitted facts to Fireman’s Fund in 1966 through 1972 relating to whether the primary policies it issued to Goulds had aggregate limits and that the primary policies Utica issued to Goulds did not have aggregate limits. The Court ultimately granted Utica’s motion to the extent that it precluded Redmond from testifying that Utica did in fact make misrepresentations to Fireman’s Fund in obtaining the reinsurance policies and that the primary policies in question did in fact lack aggregate limits. The Court noted, however, that “[d]ue to how much time has passed since these policies were issued, there are no witnesses who were personally involved with negotiating or writing the policies [and] [a]s a result, both sides will attempt to offer circumstantial evidence and testimony regarding the usual practices at that time in order to support their positions on the existence of aggregate limits.”

The Court denied FFIC’s motion to preclude Utica’s argument that FFIC had constructive notice of the loss, reasoning that “[w]hile the law in New York requires actual notice and not constructive notice, any facts showing that Fireman’s Fund had prior knowledge of the Goulds loss are relevant to Fireman’s Fund’s claimed prejudice.” However, the court granted, among other requests, FFIC’s motion to preclude Utica from introducing judicial decisions or settlements involving other insurer’s challenges to Utica’s aggregate limit position. In the same light, the Court granted Utica’s motion to preclude evidence of other disputes, holding that “disputes with other reinsurers under different facts are irrelevant and inadmissible.” Utica Mutual Insurance Co. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., Case No. 6:09-cv-00853 (USDC N.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2017).

 

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