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Smith v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

September 7, 2017

BRADLEY W. SMITH
v.
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE CO.

          ORDER

          RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery and Sanctions (R. Doc. 64) filed on August 18, 2017. The Motion is opposed. (R. Doc. 65). Plaintiff has filed a Reply. (R. Doc. 68).[1]

         I. Background

         On July 13, 2017, the Court granted in part a motion to compel filed by Bradley W. Smith (“Plaintiff”), ordering Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. (“Shelter”) to provide supplemental responses to certain discovery requests on or before July 24, 2017. (R. Doc. 63).

         On August 3, 2017, the parties held a discovery conference in which Plaintiff's counsel identified certain alleged deficiencies with regard to Shelter's supplemental responses to Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 7 and Request for Production No. 9. (R. Doc. 64-9).

         On August 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant motion. (R. Doc. 64). First, Plaintiff argues that Shelter's response to Interrogatory No. 7 is non-responsive to the interrogatory. (R. Doc. 64-1 at 1-3). Second, Plaintiff argues that Shelter's response to Request for Production No. 9 is insufficient because Plaintiff did not produce certain documents identified in its written supplemental response. (R. Doc. 64-1 at 3-4). In light of the foregoing, Plaintiff seeks an order precluding Shelter from refiling a motion for summary judgment, or, in the alternative, an order awarding Plaintiff costs and attorney's fees incurred in bringing this motion. (R. Doc. 64-1 at 4-6).

         On August 28, 2017, Shelter produced the outstanding documents responsive to Request for Production No. 9. (R. Doc. 65-2).

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Legal Standards

         Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the imposition of sanctions against a party who fails to obey an order to provide or permit discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2)(A). Sanctions may include “prohibiting the disobedient party from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses, or from introducing designated matters in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2)(A)(ii). Instead of or in addition to sanctions permitted under Rule 37(b)(2)(A), “the court must order the disobedient party, the attorney advising that party, or both to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure, unless the failure was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b)(2)(C).

         Because the Court has already ordered Shelter to provide complete responses to Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 7 and Request for Production No. 9, the Court will consider whether Shelter's supplemental responses are deficient and merit the imposition of sanctions pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2). There is no dispute that these discovery requests seek information within the scope of discovery pursuant as defined by Rule 26(b)(1). The sole dispute with regard to Shelter's supplemental responses is whether they constitute “evasive or incomplete” disclosures, answers, or responses that “must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer or respond.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

         B. Analysis

         1.Interrogatory No. 7

         Interrogatory No. 7 requests Shelter to identify whether it knew, at any time during the underlying state court litigation, that the exclusionary language in the policy at issue “relied upon for a denial of coverage required a showing that the injuries caused must have been expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured” and, ...


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