Adamscheck v. American Family Mutual Ins., No. 15-1125 (10th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
A jury found that Defendant-Appellant American Family Mutual Insurance Company (American Family) breached its insurance contract and unreasonably denied payment of underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits to Plaintiff-Appellee Patrick Adamscheck. On appeal, American Family challenged three district court rulings: (1) the district court’s decision denying American Family’s motion for partial summary judgment on the ground that workers’ compensation benefits could not be offset against any recovery at trial; (2) the district court’s pre-trial decision to exclude American Family’s biomechanics engineering expert; and (3) the district court’s post-verdict calculation of damages to include the jury’s award of $395,561 in UIM benefits, plus twice that amount for statutory damages on the unreasonable-denial-of-benefits claim. After review of the trial court record, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, but vacated the verdict and remanded for additional proceedings. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court correctly determined that workers’ compensation benefits may not be offset against UIM coverage under Colorado law. But the district court failed to fulfill its gatekeeping obligation under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, and therefore erred in excluding American Family’s expert. Because the record was inadequate to allow the Court to perform the district court’s gatekeeping function in the first instance, and because it could not conclude this error was harmless, the Tenth Circuit vacated the verdict and remanded for a new trial. The Tenth Circuit did not reach American Family’s objection to the calculation of statutory damages, which was not first presented to the district court.