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Corinthian Court Holdings, LLC v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

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

May 15, 2017

CORINTHIAN COURT HOLDINGS, LLC PLAINTIFF
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY DEFENDANT CORINTHIAN COURT HOLDINGS, LLC PLAINTIFF
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITH STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion In Limine No. 1 [124], Motion In Limine No. 2 [126], and Motion In Limine No. 3 [128] filed by Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, and the Motion In Limine to Exclude Other Litigation (“Motion to Exclude Litigation”) [130] and Motion In Limine to Exclude Experts (“Motion to Exclude Experts”) [132] filed by Plaintiff Corinthian Court Holdings, LLC. After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds the following:

1. the Motion In Limine No. 1 [124] should be granted in part and deferred in part;
2. the Motion In Limine No. 2 [126] should be granted in part and deferred in part;
3. the Motion In Limine No. 3 [128] is not well taken and should be denied;
4. the Motion to Exclude Litgation [130] should be deferred;
5. the Motion to Exclude Experts [132] is not well taken and should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a consolidated action stemming from alleged property damage to an apartment complex in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, owned by Plaintiff Corinthian Holdings, LLC (“Plaintiff”) and insured by Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“Defendant”). The suit concerns damage allegedly sustained to the complex when Hattiesburg was hit by Hurricane Isaac in 2012 and again when it was hit by a tornado in 2013. Plaintiff brings claims of (i) negligence/gross negligence/reckless disregard for rights of plaintiffs; (ii) breach of contract; (iii) breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing; and (iv) bad faith. Of the claims, the only one that deals with coverage under the relevant insurance policy is the claim for breach of contract. The other claims deal with Defendant's procedures in handling and processing Plaintiff's claims under the policy and are dependent on a finding of liability under the breach of contract claim.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion In Limine No. 1 [124]

         In its Motion In Limine No. 1 [124], Defendant asks that the Court bifurcate the trial, with the first phase dealing with the issues dealing with liability under the relevant insurance policy and the second dealing with the extra-contractual claims and punitive damages. Defendant additionally proposes that any evidence related to its handling of the alleged covered losses should be tried at the punitive damages issue. Ultimately, Defendant is requesting the breach of contract issue be decided first by the jury before Plaintiff is allowed to introduce any evidence regarding its remaining claims.

         Plaintiff does not object to bifurcation of punitive damages in accordance with Miss. Code Ann. § 11-1-65. It does, however, object to all evidence to Defendant's handling of the coverage claims being separate from the breach of contract claim.

         The Mississippi Supreme Court has found that the clear legislative intent behind § 11-1-65 “was to prevent issue confusion and to create a barrier between testimony regarding the fundamental issue of liability and the inflammatory issue of egregious conduct.” Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Williams, 936 So.2d 888, 897 (Miss. 2006). This Court has recognized that this barrier “may be difficult to define” as it is “difficult to envision a breach of an insurance contract suit without consideration of . . . the procedure utilized in handling the claim.” Briggs v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No. 3:14-CV-16-DPJ-FKB, 2015 WL 2452694, at *2 (S.D.Miss. May 22, 2015) (citations omitted). This Court has also ruled in past cases that some actions taken by insurance companies in processing the claims may be relevant in determining whether the policy was breached. See Bossier ...


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