August 21, 2019

Tenth Circuit: District Court Within Discretion to Disregard “Unwieldy Mass” of Unnumbered Exhibits

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London v. Garmin International, Inc. on Friday, March 27, 2015.

Garmin International was testing a new product in experimental, home-built aircraft, and installed one in Henry Bartle’s airplane. Garmin also sent employees to Bartle’s hanger in order to draw illustrations for a manual for the product. Bartle designed a custom bracket for the product and sold it through his company for use with the Garmin product. While Bartle was flying with his stepdaughter, her friend, and her friend’s daughter, the plane crashed short of the runway and all four were injured. Bartle’s passengers and their friends brought suit in California, alleging claims of strict product liability, negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, and loss of consortium. Bartle claimed that the aircraft was built in a joint venture with Garmin and Garmin’s insurance policy included coverage for such joint ventures. Garmin denied any business relationship with Bartle and denied that he was a covered insured under any of its policies.

Garmin’s insurance provider subsequently brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas under the Declaratory Judgment Act, seeking a declaration that Bartle fell outside the definition of “insured” in any of its policies with Garmin. Bartle submitted over 700 pages of evidence and exhibits, but failed to comply with the court’s numbering and particularity requirements, thus the district court disregarded most of his evidence. The district court granted summary judgment to Garmin, finding Bartle was not covered by the insurance policies.

The Tenth Circuit first addressed whether the district court abused its discretion in disregarding the evidence that did not comply with District of Kansas Rule 56.1. Bartle explained that the court’s e-filing system limited the sizes of exhibits and assigned new document and page numbers to electronically filed exhibits, which made his citations incorrect. Although the Tenth Circuit was sympathetic to Bartle’s explanations of difficulties with the e-filing system, it found the district court was well within its discretion in setting aside Bartle’s “unwieldy mass of data.”

Turning next to the merits of the appeal, the Tenth Circuit found the plain language of Garmin’s policy required Bartle and Garmin to have more than a joint venture. In order to be covered, Bartle would have had to create one of the specifically described business entities and allowed Garmin to exercise control or have an ownership interest. Since there was no evidence of control by Garmin, the district court correctly found Bartle was not insured.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment.

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