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Leevac Shipbuilders LLC v. Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

January 15, 2015



KATHLEEN KAY, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is a motion to compel discovery responses filed on October 8, 2014, by the plaintiff Leevac Shipbuilders, LLC (hereinafter "Leevac") requesting that the defendant, Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Company (hereinafter "Westchester") be ordered to produce answers to interrogatories and documents originally requested by Leevac on July 16, 2014. In addition, Leevac seeks attorneys' fees and costs for bringing this Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is hereby GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


On July 16, 2014, Leevac served on Westchester its "First Set of Request for Admissions, Request for Production of Documents and Interrogatories." Specifically, the document contained eight requests for admissions, ten requests for production of documents, and fifteen interrogatories. See Doc. 22, att. 2. On August 5, 2014, Westchester, through counsel, requested a two-week extension of time to respond which Leevac granted. Doc. 22, att. 1, p. 2. On August 27, 2014, two days before the deadline to respond, Westchester again sought an extension. Leevac agreed to this second extension on the condition that Westchester submit a "meaningful counter-proposal" to an earlier settlement offer proposed by Leevac. Ultimately, through this second extension, the deadline for Westchester's responses to discovery was extended to September 12, 2014. Id.

When the September 12 deadline arrived Westchester responded to the requests for admissions and to the requests for production by producing some 2, 209 pages of documents which it claims were "the only files it maintained with respect to the subject loss and coverage." Doc. 28, p. 10. A privilege log listing a single document as subject to the attorney-client privilege was also provided. Doc. 22, att. 6. The interrogatories were apparently left unanswered due to the fact that counsel for Westchester's contact with the company was out of the country and hence could neither render the assistance nor grant the approval necessary to answer said interrogatories. Doc. 28, p. 11.

On September 24 Leevac sent a letter to counsel for Westchester identifying numerous deficiencies with the responses given and noting the latter's failure to respond to interrogatories. A Rule 37.1 teleconference followed on September 30, 2014, during which counsel for Leevac informed Westchester's counsel that she had waived the right to object to Interrogatories and that she should therefore submit her responses accordingly. Counsel for Westchester apparently indicated that the documents produced had been produced as kept in the usual course of business in full accordance with [FRCP] Rule 34. She further stated that she would provide the "underwriting file" (Request for Production No. 3) subject to a Protective Order, [1] and also indicated that she would provide answers to the interrogatories by October 3, 2014. Doc. 28, p. 11.

At some point shortly thereafter[2] Westchester provided Leevac with its answers to the interrogatories in question. As to interrogatory Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, and 14, these answers consisted of statements indicating that Westchester would "supplement this response." See Doc. 22, att. 8.

As for interrogatory Nos. 8 and 15 Westchester responded with objections pertaining primarily to the relevance of the information sought thereby since both requested information about prior lawsuits allegedly unrelated to the instant litigation.

In response to interrogatory No. 10 which essentially requested a privilege log, Westchester reiterated that it had already provided such a document when it responded to the requests for production on September 12, 2014.

Finally, responding to interrogatory No. 11, which requested that Westchester "state the name, address, telephone number, and job title... of all persons who...investigated, reviewed, handled, made decisions, and communicated with Plaintiff regarding Plaintiffs claims, " Westchester objected on grounds that said request was overly broad and unduly burdensome.

Upon receipt of these answers, Leevac filed the instant motion to compel on October 8, 2014, on grounds that "not one iota of information was disclosed" in the responses provided by Westchester. See Doc. 22, att. 8.

On or about October 27, 2014 Westchester finally provided Leevac with detailed and substantive responses supplementing its earlier replies both to the requests for production and to the interrogatories propounded. Each of these supplemental responses specifically responded to the queries raised by Leevac and gave appropriate identifiers (i.e. referencing Bates Nos.) as to where the information sought could be located within the 2, 209 pages of documents already produced. See Doc. 28, atts. 7-8.

Despite these responses, Leevac persists with the present motion claiming that the initial responses Westchester provided were little more than promises to supplement which are "tantamount to no answer at all, " and that the supplemental responses Westchester has since provided are untimely because they were not produced until October 27, well over a month after the September 12 deadline agreed upon by the parties. Doc. 29, p. 3. Consequently, in addition to attorneys' fees and costs, Leevac requests the following from this court:

1. An Order, striking all objections to Interrogatories, and compelling Westchester to produce Supplemental Answers to Interrogatories, waiving all rights to objection;
2. An Order, striking all general, unsupported objections in Westchester's Responses to Requests for Production of Documents;
3. An Order, striking all unsupported claims of privilege, and requiring Westchester to clarify whether there are any documents being withheld on the basis of an alleged privilege, which are not listed in the Privilege Log, and/or any documents being withheld on the basis on other objections;

Furthermore, Leevac asks that we compel production of the following documents whether in Westchester's actual possession or practically ...

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