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Walters v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., N12C-01-019 JRJ (Del. Super. May 1, 2013)

Delaware Superior Court holds that evidence of Plaintiff's misrepresentations on a lost wage claim is inadmissible as unduly prejudicial in a UIM claim where the lost wage claim had been withdrawn from contention in the suit.

Following a motor vehicle accident, Plaintiff filed a PIP claim with his insurer, State Farm, seeking lost wages with a verification from his Pipefitters union that they had 100% job placement and that the standard rate of pay was $31.86/hour and full benefits were $69.13/hour. As a part of his PIP claim, Plaintiff received $63,000.00 in lost wages. Plaintiff then filed a UIM claim against his insurer, State Farm, seeking to recover for personal injuries and lost wages in the amount of $94,016.80.

In discovery on the UIM claim, Plaintiff produced tax returns dated from 2009 and 2010 dated the same day as his discovery responses. Those returns showed wages of $23,350.00 (2009) and $12,067.00 (2010). When questioned at a deposition Plaintiff acknowledged that the returns had not been filed and he signed them because the Defendant had requested the returns. Plaintiff indicated he just had not gotten around to filing returns since 2007. Additionally Plaintiff acknowledged that he was not working for several months prior to the accident.

Plaintiff withdrew his lost wage claim and filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of taxes and tax returns from the jury under Delaware Rules of Evidence (D.R.E. 404 and 403). The Court granted Plaintiff's motion to exclude the taxes because, having withdrawn the lost wage claim, there was no fact in issue for which the taxes would be relevant. The Court found that the information would be unduly prejudicial, even though it was probative of the Plaintiff's credibility as to his pain and suffering.

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