Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

COMMONWEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY v. STONE CONTAINER CORP.

April 13, 2004.

COMMONWEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY; HARTFORD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY; NAVIGATORS INSURANCE COMPANY; EMPLOYERS INSURANCE COMPANY OF WAUSAU; and NEW YORK MARINE AND GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiffs and Counterclaim Defendants,
v.
STONE CONTAINER CORPORATION, Defendant and Counterclaimant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the parties' motions in limine. Plaintiff Commonwealth Insurance Company ("Commonwealth") has filed ll motions; Defendant Stone Container Corporation ("Stone") has filed five.

BACKGROUND

  Stone manufactures pulp, paper, and paper products. Part of the manufacturing process involves pulp digesters, which turn wood chips into pulp using chemicals, heat, and pressure. On April 13, 1994, a pulp digester exploded in Stone's plant in Panama City, Florida, killing several employees and causing an alleged $84 million of damage. Stone had obtained insurance for the calendar year 1994 with the aid of a professional corporate insurance broker, Rollins Hudig Hall of Illinois, Inc. (now Aon Risk Services, Inc. of Illinois ("Aon")). Stone ultimately obtained a patchwork of insurance coverage for the 1994 year that was split among different insurers, at different layers of coverage, and between different types of insurance. For the first $20 million of damage, Stone was covered for all risks including boiler and machinery risks. Stone has received the full proceeds under these policies. For damages in excess of $20 million, coverage was split between boiler and machinery insurance provided by Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company ("HSB") and all-risk insurance, excluding boiler and machinery risks, provided by several insurers including Commonwealth.

  In February 1995 Commonwealth, along with several of Stone's other insurers, filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment that their policies did not cover Stone's losses incurred at the Panama City plant. This suit was dismissed without prejudice so Stone could pursue an action solely against HSB (the boiler and machinery insurer for damages in excess of $20 million). Stone obtained summary judgment against HSB at the trial level but lost on a reversal by the Court of Appeals. Stone Container Corp. v. Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Ins., 165 F.3d 1157 (7th Cir. 1999)(Stone II) rev'g Stone Container Corp. v. Hartford Steam Bolier Inspection and Ins., 936 F. Supp. 487 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (Stone I).

  After the Seventh Circuit decided Stone II. Commonwealth and Stone's other insurers renewed their declaratory judgment action against Stone. Stone filed counterclaims as well as third-party claims against Aon and another party. After ensuing motions for summary judgment and settlements, only Commonwealth and Stone remain.

  At the time of the accident, Commonwealth had not yet issued a policy. As a temporary memorialization of its agreement to insure Stone, it issued an insurance binder. All the binder stated with respect to boiler and machinery perils was "B & M Sub-Limit $20,000,000." In deciding the most recent motion for summary judgment, we determined this language to be ambiguous, necessitating a trial to determine what the parties actually intended in entering the insurance agreement. The parties have filed a final pretrial order, which includes several motions in limine.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  The power to exclude evidence pursuant to motions in limine is part and parcel of a district court's authority to manage trials. Falk v. Kimberly Servs., 1997 WL 201568, * l (N.D. Ill. Apr. 16, 1997), Motions in limine should be granted only when the evidence under attack is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Hawthorne Partners v. A.T. & T. Technologies. Inc. 831 F. Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). The admissibility of some proposed evidence cannot be determined without a proper frame of reference, and motions in limine pertaining to such evidence should be denied. See Tzoumis v. Tempel Steel Co., 168 F. Supp.2d 871, 873 (N.D. Ill. 2001). Of course, such a denial does not mandate that the subject evidence be admitted at trial; rather, it allows the court to address pertinent questions of admissibility within a proper context. Hawthorne Partners. 831 F. Supp. at 1400-01. Moreover, a district court can alter a previous ruling on a motion in limine. Luce v. U.S. 49 U.S. 38, 41-42, 105 S.Ct. 460 (1984). With these principles in mind, we address the motions before us.

  DISCUSSION

 A. Commonwealth's Motions

 1. Motion #1: Testimony Regarding Bodily Injuries and Deaths

  Commonwealth moves to omit from the trial any evidence of the injuries and deaths caused in the Panama City incident. They correctly point out that this evidence is immaterial to any of the issues remaining in this case. Stone agrees with this ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.