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United Automobile Insurance v. Stucki & Rencher, LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

October 2, 2017

UNITED AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
STUCKI & RENCHER, LLC; MICHAEL J. COLLINS Defendants.

          ROBERT J. SHELBY DISTRICT JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTIONS FOR DISCOVERY AND DENYING MOTION TO QUASH

          BROOKE C. WELLS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is referred to the undersigned in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 636 (b)(1)(A)[1]from Judge Robert Shelby. Pending before the court are four discovery motions. Defendants Stucki & Rencher LLC and Michael Collins have filed three motions for discovery seeking responses to certain Interrogatories, production of documents and answers in response to requests for admissions.[2] Plaintiff United Automobile Insurance (UAIC) seeks to have this court quash a subpoena served upon Richard Parillo who is Plaintiff's Chief Executive Officer. As set forth below the court will grant and deny the respective motions in part.

         BACKGROUND

         This action is a malpractice case brought by Plaintiff against Defendants. The circumstances giving rise to the dispute come from an underlying lawsuit, where following trial, Plaintiff's insured was found at fault and a jury awarded a judgment against the insured for $936, 017.00.[3] Plaintiff UAIC settled the judgment and discharged it on behalf of their insured for over $700, 000. UAIC also paid the fees and reimbursed Defendants for the costs associated in bringing the defense in the underlying action.[4] Plaintiff then subsequently filed this case against Mr. Collins and the law firm of Stucki & Rencher alleging professional negligence/malpractice, negligence, equitable subrogation and breaches of certain duties and contract.[5]

         DISCUSSION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 governs Defendants discovery motions. Rule 26(b) provides in relevant part that

“Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”

         With Rule 26 as the backdrop the court considers the discovery requests handed out by Defendants' counsel during the hearing held on September 20, 2017, that are the subject of the motions. Before turning to the requests, however, the court ORDERS Plaintiff to provide affidavits outlining the details of the searches including the methods used. During the hearing Plaintiff's counsel readily admitted surprise at the lack of policies and manuals within UAIC. Although a lack of certain discovery documents may be surprising the court will not at this time call into serious question UAIC's business practices, but affidavits are to be provided to help alleviate any concerns that discovery is missing or being withheld. The court agrees with Defendants' concern that there is a need for discovery to prepare for depositions. If the searches reveal little to no information Defendants will know with some certainty based upon the affidavits that depositions may proceed.

         I. Interrogatories

         The court finds many of the Interrogatories to be overbroad and modifies them as set forth below. As a starting point, the court notes that the underlying accident was on or about April 25, 2011[6] and the underlying policy was first issued on approximately March 12, 2009.[7]Some of the Interrogatories seek information from January 1, 2005, which the court finds to be too remote from the relevant events in this case. The court finds the Interrogatories should be limited to those circumstances and individuals involved in this matter and the underling matter so they are not overbroad. While discovery is broad at this stage of the case, there is still a need to weigh the proportionality requirements which may narrow discovery based on the needs of the case.

1. (REVISED) Identify with particularity every case in which a bad faith claim has been brought against UAIC from January 1, 2005 to February 1, 2014. For each, state the date on and location in which it was filed, the nature of the claim, and how it was resolved.

         The court finds the request for “every case” overbroad as well as the requested time frame. The court will permit a representative sample of 10 cases in summary form from January 1, 2009 to February 1, 2014.

2. (REVISED) Identify with particularity every case involving one or more of your insureds in which you have rejected an offer of settlement for an amount that fell within the limits of the insured's policy and then received a verdict and/or judgment exceeding the policy(s) from January 1, 2005 to February 1, 2014. For each, identify the case title, name, and location of filing, the policy limits, and the amount of the verdict or judgment.

         The court finds the time frame overbroad and will limit it from January 1, 2009 to February 1, 2014.

4. Identify with particularity every lawsuit and/or arbitration in which the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure applied and in which, from January 1, 2010 to the present you advised counsel for your insured to elect to depose an expert rather than to receive an expert report and/or in which you have objected to your legal counsel electing an expert report rather than an expert deposition.

         The court finds this Interrogatory overbroad but will permit it as set forth above without the portions that have been struck.

5. Identify with particularity every case in which, from January 1, 2010 to the present, you have advised counsel for your insured(s) to postpone incurring litigation/arbitration costs, such as, without limitation: conducting discovery, the retention and/or consultation of an expert, a medical evaluation, preparing and/or filing pleadings or other court filings, as well as the re on(s) for you so advising and/or directing.

         The court finds this particular Interrogatory overbroad and strikes it. Plaintiff need not answer it.

6. Identify with particularity every communication you had with Mike Collins from April 25, 2011 to the present. For each, identify the date of the communications, who was present, whether the communication was via telephone, email, letter, or in person, and the general nature of the conversation.

         The court finds this Interrogatory relevant and within the scope of discovery.

7. (REVISED) Identify with particularity every communication you had about the car accident or the underlying litigation from April 25, 2011 to the present, including without limitation any communications by, between, or among Kathy Webb, Denise Davis, Jan Cook, Sandra Colovo, Mr. VanDyke from VC Investigations, or Richard (Frank) Parillo. For each, identify the date of the communications, who was present, whether the communication was via telephone, email, letter, or in person, and the general nature of the conversation. If the communication was in writing, please identify by bates number.

         The court finds the use of “you” in the first sentence to be vague. Defendants are to redraft this Interrogatory specifying who exactly “you” is referring to.

8. Identify with particularity every communication you had with Rose Marie or Genevieve Wirth from April 25, 2011 to the present. For each, identify the date of the communications, who was present, whether the communication was via telephone, email, letter, or in person, and the general nature of the conversation.

         The court finds this Interrogatory relevant and within the scope of discovery.

9. Identify with particularity every communication you had with the Impact General from April 25, 2011 to the present. For each, identify the date of the communications, who was present, whether the communication was via telephone, email, letter, or in person, and the general nature of the conversation.

         The court finds this Interrogatory relevant and within the scope of discovery.

10. (REVISED) Identify with particularity all internal procedures you have related to the following from January 1, 2005 to the present:
a. Settling claims;
b. Engaging experts;
c. Evaluating claims;
d. Approving settlement demands
e. Documenting communications related to ...

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