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Willis v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

September 26, 2014

SANDRA WILLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude [121] the Expert Testimony of W. Brian Smith.

A. Background

This case involves alleged bad faith and breach of contract related to the handling of claims on a homeowner's insurance policy. Plaintiff's house burned down in June 2012. It was insured under a homeowner's policy issued by Defendant. After an investigation, Defendant denied the contents portion of Plaintiff's claim, alleging that she made material misrepresentations related to the loss. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit, alleging that Defendant delayed payment on the dwelling portion of her claim in bad faith, denied payment on the contents portion of her claim in bad faith, and failed to investigate her theft claim in bad faith. The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment [119, 123] are pending.

Plaintiff filed a Motion to Exclude [121] the testimony of Defendant's proposed expert, W. Brian Smith. Smith is an independent insurance claims adjuster whom Defendant designated as an expert witness in the insurance industry. Smith intends to testify that "the circumstances surrounding [Plaintiff's] loss required additional investigating;" that "the investigation conducted was reasonable and necessary;" that the "investigation was conducted in a timely manner;" and that "there is more than sufficient information supporting the decision that the contents portion of this claim be denied." In other words, Smith intends to testify that Defendant had an arguable and legitimate basis for investigating Plaintiff's claims and for denying her contents claim, and that Defendant did not breach the contract in bad faith.

For a variety of reasons, Plaintiff contends that these opinions do not satisfy the requirements of Rule 702. Plaintiff is correct.

B. Discussion

Rule 702 provides:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

FED. R. EVID. 702. "An expert may base on opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they ...


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