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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ind. Decisions - Yet another Supreme Court decision today

In State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company and Michael Cancel v. Francisco Gutierrez, a 7page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

A passenger in a truck insured by State Farm Insurance was injured in an accident. The passenger sued both the driver for negligence and State Farm for bad faith. We affirm the trial court’s decision denying the driver’s request that the claims against him be tried separately from those against State Farm. Neither prejudice to his case nor general policy considerations overcome the fact that the driver did not file his request within the deadline set by the trial court. * * *

We think that as a policy matter, it will often be appropriate for bad faith claims to be tried separately from liability claims. But it is not too much to ask a party that seeks bifurcation to do so on a schedule designed to permit the case to proceed to trial in an orderly fashion. Given the failure of Cancel to comply with the case management order as well as the absence of any significant amount of prejudice, we are unwilling to impose a new trial upon the trial court and the parties simply to establish this new principle.

Conclusion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court with respect to its denial of Cancel’s motion to bifurcate Gutierrez’s negligence action against him from Gutierrez’s breach of contract, breach of a duty of good faith and fair dealing, and punitive damages claim against State Farm. We summarily affirm the Court of Appeals on the remaining issues.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 22, 2007 02:09 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions