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UIM Policy Limits Irrelevant In UIM Trial (PA)

August 4, 2022

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In <em>Lucca v. Geico Ins. Co.</em>, the plaintiff brought an action against his automobile insurer for refusing to provide underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits after he was injured in a car accident.  The curious thing is that he had settled with the tortfeasor for less than the policy limit.
On April 8, 2011, the plaintiff, Darren Lucca, was involved in a car accident with another motorist who had a $100,000 policy limit. Lucca received $75,000 from that motorist and then sought UIM benefits from his insurance carrier, Geico.  Geico refused to pay on the basis that Lucca received the $75,000 in arbitration and not as a settlement, and therefore the motorist was not underinsured.  For a reason not made clear by the court, the case proceeded on anyway towards trial.
With trial looming, the court described the sole issue to be determined as the extent of damages attributed to the accident. Given this sole issue, Geico filed a motion <em>in limine</em> to exclude evidence it anticipated the plaintiff would seek to introduce including a $900,000 UIM policy limit and the amount of policy premiums paid.  At the heart of the evidential dispute was the plaintiff’s contention that the case was essentially a breach of contract action and Geico’s position that the limited trial issue was the extent of plaintiff’s damages.  If the latter, the amount of premiums and policy UIM limit would have no relevance to the case but would be prejudicial.
Interestingly, Geico argued that if the Court did allow that evidence in, it should be permitted to introduce the tortfeasor’s coverage limits as well as the settlement amount. Lucca argued against both of Geico’s positions and cited a single case<em>, Noone v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co.</em>, to support his position.  In <em>Noone</em>, the court not only allowed in the UIM policy limits but also the at-fault motorist’s policy limits as well as the settlement amount.  Thus, Lucca argued that the court should follow only the parts of <em>Noone</em>, that benefited him.
The Court, however, thought otherwise and ruled that UIM policy limits are not only irrelevant, but most certainly prejudicial “by giving the jury an anchor number that has no bearing on Mr. Lucca’s damages.”
Thanks to Marcus Washington for his contribution.
For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at <a href=""><u></u></a>.<a href="">Lucca v. Geico Ins. Co.</a>

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