Ellena v. Standard Insurance Company et al

Filing 167

ORDER re Testimony of Steven Prater.. Signed by Judge Samuel Conti on 1/16/2014. (sclc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/16/2014)

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1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 CASSAUNDRA ELLENA, United States District Court For the Northern District of California 9 10 Plaintiff, v. 11 STANDARD INSURANCE COMPANY, 12 Defendant. 13 14 ) Case No. 12-5401 SC ) ) ORDER RE: TESTIMONY OF STEVEN ) PRATER ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 15 16 The Court held a pretrial conference in this matter on January 17 10, 2014. 18 referred to a magistrate judge for a report and recommendation as 19 to specific testimony of the Plaintiff's expert, Steven Prater. 20 The Court hereby VACATES that Order. 21 Order on Defendant's motion in limine, ECF No. 163, Prater may 22 offer testimony that embraces the issue of bad faith, but he may 23 not give opinions as to legal conclusion on the issue. 24 provides additional guidance on Prater's testimony below. 25 At the hearing, the Court ordered that the case be Consistent with the Court's The Court Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, "[e]xpert testimony 26 is properly admissible when it serves to assist the trier of fact 27 in understanding the evidence or determine a fact in issue." 28 United States v. Kuiken, 198 F. App'x 643, 646 (9th Cir. 2006). An 1 expert's opinion "is not objectionable just because it embraces an 2 ultimate issue." 3 testimony is not proper for issues of law. 4 analyze factual evidence. 5 ." 6 1996). Fed. R. Evid. 702(a). However, "[e]xpert Experts interpret and They do not testify about the law . . . Crow Tribe of Indians v. Racicot, 87 F.3d 1039, 1045 (9th Cir. Plaintiff offers Prater's testimony to assist the jury in 7 8 determining whether Defendant violated established insurance 9 standards when it evaluated Plaintiff's disability claim. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 Defendant moves to preclude Prater from testifying because his 11 opinions constitute legal conclusions and cross the line between 12 expert and advocate. 13 Court agrees that some of Prater's intended testimony crosses the 14 line. 15 testifying altogether, since some of his testimony may assist the 16 jury. Having reviewed Prater's expert report, the However, the Court declines to exclude Prater from Many passages from Prater's expert report read like a summary 17 18 judgment brief. At one point, Prater argues: "There's an abundance 19 of evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that 20 punitive damages are warranted in this case in order to punish, 21 deter, and change [Defendant's conduct]." 22 Rep.") at 6. 23 will preclude Prater from making such statements at trial. 24 Prater's job is to provide the jury with information that will help 25 them arrive at a verdict, not to tell them what that verdict should 26 be. 27 analyze disability case law. 28 expert's, to instruct the jury on the law of the case. ECF No. 67-2 ("Prater These statements are legal conclusions and the Court Prater's report also contains a number of paragraphs that It is the Court's duty, not the 2 Further, Prater's report addresses a number of issues that do 1 2 not require scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge 3 to understand. 4 working person who used her best efforts to do her job in a 5 professional manner." 6 disability benefits have been approved by the State of California, 7 the County of Sonoma, and the federal government should weigh in 8 favor of a finding that Plaintiff was disabled; however, he does 9 not opine that this is industry practice. He opines that Plaintiff "is a conscientious, hard- Id. at 8. He states that the fact that While these facts may be United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 relevant, it is unclear why Prater needs to explain them to the 11 jury. Accordingly, Prater may not offer such testimony at trial. In short, the Court intends to limit Prater's testimony to 12 13 insurance standards, practices, and procedures. Prater may testify 14 about whether Defendant's conduct was inconsistent with those 15 standard practices. 16 concerning factual matters that do not require specialized 17 knowledge to understand. 18 law. 19 practices of Defendant and his specialized knowledge of the 20 insurance industry. 21 provide a general opinion on whether all of Defendants practices, 22 taken together, rise to the level of bad faith conduct. However, he may not argue to the jury Nor may he offer opinions concerning the Each of Prater's opinions should be tethered to the specific He may not weigh the evidence for the jury or 23 24 IT IS SO ORDERED. 25 26 January 16, 2014 27 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 28 3

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