Insurance Customs & Practices Expert Witness Partially Allowed

The plaintiff sued defendant for not providing adequate notification and the opportunity to purchase certain motorist coverage.  The plaintiff hired an expert to assist in his case and the defendant challenged this testimony.

Facts:  This case (O’Sullivan v. Geico Casualty Company – United States District Court – District of Colorado – February 7th, 2017) involves an insurance dispute.  The plaintiff (O’Sullivan) filed suit against the defendant (Geico) for denying insurance benefits as well as exemplary damages.  O’Sullivan hired David Torres (insurance customs & practices expert witness) to provide expert witness testimony on his behalf.  Geico has filed a motion to exclude Mr. Torres’s testimony.

Discussion: Mr. Torres was hired to offer opinions on Geico’s handling of O’Sullivan’s underinsured motorist claim.  Geico argues that Mr. Torres’s opinions should be excluded for the following reasons: 1) He is not qualified; 2) his opinions are not reliable and are not based on sound principles; and 3) his opinions are legal conclusions, which are not permissible.

First, the court addressed Torres’s qualifications and ruled that he is qualified to testify in this case.  He has worked for many years in the insurance industry and his report shows that he is familiar with the standard practices used by the insurance industry, and with the statutory law of insurers in Colorado.  His experience has made him familiar with the customs and practices within the insurance industry. Geico’s argument that Mr. Torres does not have a higher level of knowledge or experience than an ordinary person who is employed in the insurance industry is easily dismissed.  In addition, Geico’s argument that Mr. Torres gained experience at a single insurance company can be discussed on cross-examination.  Last, the court rejected Geico’s argument that Mr. Torres is unqualified because he recently shifted his professional emphasis on expert witness testimony.

Regarding the reliability of Mr. Torres’s opinions, Geico argues that he did not consider enough facts surrounding the case to support his opinions.  The court disagreed, stating that Mr. Torres’s report is clear that his methodology consists of what he know about the insurance industry standards and practices.  This methodology was based on his experience, looking at the facts and evidence of the case and then opining how Geico fell short of the relevant industry standards.  This methodology is sufficiently reliable based on facts and data and their application.  In addition, the court opines that Mr. Torres’s report will be helpful to the jury in this case.  While Mr. Torres’s report could have been better written, and arguments about the report go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

The court does agree with Geico that some of Mr. Torres’s opinions are improperly speculative or conclusory.  To the extent that his testimony follows a written report, any speculative comments using words such as “may” or “possibly” will be excluded.

Last, the court opined that the several legal conclusions offered by Torres will be excluded.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of David Torres is granted in part and denied in part.