Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. and Utica Mutual Insurance are headed to a bench trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York in a case regarding two facultative reinsurance certificates issued by Munich to Utica in 1973 and 1977, and the court has ruled on certain motions in limine filed by both parties.
In an earlier ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, the court noted that neither the 1973 nor the 1977 certificates contained a follow the fortunes or follow the settlements provision and declined to find this such a clause was implied in the contracts based on the record before it. Munich filed a motion in limine asking the court to preclude Utica from presenting evidence in support of the existence of a follow the fortunes/settlements provision. The court denied this motion, however, holding that Utica would be allowed to present evidence that “the doctrines of follow the fortunes or follow the settlements were, at the time the parties agreed to the Certificates, so ‘fixed and invariable’ in the reinsurance industry as to be part of the Certificates.” In doing so, however, the court emphasized that it would be Utica’s burden to show that such custom and practice was “fixed and invariable,” and not merely generally understood within the (re)insurance industry during the relevant time period.
The court also considered Munich’s motion to preclude certain testimony by Utica’s expert witnesses regarding trade usage and custom and practice in the reinsurance industry. The court declined to exclude such testimony, doing so largely on the basis that such decisions could better be made in the context of trial and that such exclusions are less necessary in a bench trial “[w]here the gatekeeper and the factfinder are one in the same—that is, the judge . . . .” However, the court granted Munich’s motion to preclude testimony on withdrawn claims and defenses as well as its motion to preclude evidence of decisions from certain other matters, which the court held was hearsay.
Utica was similarly unsuccessful in most of its motions in limine. The court rejected Utica’s request that Munich not be allowed to make certain arguments about the meaning of the 1973 and 1977 certificates on the basis of collateral estoppel. The court found that this interpretation was an issue of law, and “collateral estoppel does not operate to bar relitigation of pure issues of law.” However, the court granted Utica’s motion to preclude the use of a privilege log it produced in the litigation, which Munich argued was admissible to show when Utica considered certain issues, finding that there was no relevant, nonspeculative inference that could be drawn from that log.