Federal Court Rules on Admissibility of Expert Testimony in South Carolina Woman’s Bad Faith Case Against Insurer – Karnofsky v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company


The majority of personal injury cases, wrongful death actions, and bad faith insurance claims are litigated in state court. However, the federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction in such cases if there is diversity of citizenship between the parties and there is more than $75,000 is in controversy.

Litigation in either the state or the federal system can be protracted and complex. Typically, a suit begins with the plaintiff filing a complaint, and the defendant filing an answer (and sometimes a counter-complaint against the plaintiff or a third-party complaint against someone not yet involved in the case).

Once the pleadings are filed, the next phase of litigation is the discovery phase, during which the parties are given an opportunity to submit document requests, interrogatories, and requests to admit so that each side can learn as much as possible about the other’s case. This is both to help the parties prepare for trial and to encourage settlement, if at all possible.

Facts of the Case

In the recent case of Karnofsky v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, the plaintiff was a woman who filed suit against the defendant insurance company, alleging that the insurance company had acted in bad faith with regard to the plaintiff’s application for disability benefits. During the discovery phase of the litigation, the plaintiff informed the insurance company that she planned to rely on the testimony of two particular expert witnesses at trial.

The defendant filed motions in limine to exclude the testimony of the witnesses. The plaintiff filed a response, and the court determined that the matter was ripe for consideration.

The District Court’s Decision

With regard to the first expert, who was proffered as an expert on insurance industry standards and what constitutes bad faith, the court determined that the expert should be allowed to testify, except with regard to legal conclusions, opinions based solely on a particular set of regulatory settlement agreements, and matters pertaining to the plaintiff’s medical condition. The court rejected the defendant’s arguments that the witness’s testimony should be excluded on the grounds that it was based on an incorrect understanding of South Carolina’s duty of good faith and fair dealing, relied on irrelevant information, was unnecessary, and/or was too vague.

As to the other expert, the court rejected the insurance company’s argument that the witness had improperly supplemented his reports but agreed that the witness could not testify about the present-value of future disability benefits, insomuch as such benefits were unavailable in a South Carolina bad faith cause of action.

Talk to an Experienced South Carolina Attorney About Your Bad Faith Claim

If you think you may have a bad faith claim against an insurance company, the Law Offices of Patrick E. Knie can help. We have 35 years of legal experience helping injured people seek fair compensation and holding insurance companies accountable for bad faith and fraud. Call us at (864) 582-5118 to schedule a free initial consultation. We have offices in both Spartanburg and Greenville, and serve clients throughout South Carolina.

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