United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
BRADLEY W. SMITH
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE CO.
RICHARD L. BOURGEOIS, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant's Motion to Compel Discovery
Responses (R. Doc. 81) filed on November 29, 2017. The Motion
is opposed. (R. Doc. 84).
an insurance action arising out of an automobile-pedestrian
accident on August 13, 2001 involving Bradley W. Smith
(“Smith” or “Plaintiff”) and Paul
Babin (“Babin”). After the accident, Smith filed
a state court lawsuit against Babin and his insurance
company, Shelter Mutual Insurance Company
(“Shelter” or “Defendant”). After
conducting a bifurcated trial, the trial judge dismissed with
prejudice Babin's cross-claims against Shelter for
alleged bad faith in refusing to provide Babin with a legal
defense, misrepresenting the coverage under the Shelter
policy, and failure to indemnify Babin. Thereafter, Babin
sought review of the trial court's finding that Shelter
did not have a duty to defend Babin. The Louisiana First
Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed. Babin also sought review of
the trial court's dismissal of his claims of
misrepresentation and for failure to indemnify. The Louisiana
First Circuit held the issue was not properly before the
court on appeal because Shelter had admitted coverage and
paid its policy limits after the jury trial portion of the
3, 2015, Smith filed the instant lawsuit, under an assignment
of rights from Babin, seeking to collect from Shelter the
excess amount of the state trial court judgment beyond the
policy liability amount of $10, 000 per person, and for bad
faith damages pursuant to La. R.S. 22:1892 and La. R.S.
22:1973. (R. Doc. 1).
24, 2017, Shelter served discovery requests on Smith. (R.
Doc. 81-2 at 1-4). Through its Request for Production No. 1,
Shelter sought production of the written document assigning
rights from Babin to Smith. (R. Doc. 84-2 at 3). Smith
provided responses on August 23, 2017. (R. Doc. 84-2). Smith
objected to Request for Production No. 1 on the basis that
the assignment of rights is not relevant to this litigation
and contains a confidentiality provision. (R. Doc. 84-2 at
3). Smith provided a privilege log identifying the withheld
the document. (R. Doc. 84-2 at 6).
October 31, 2017, Shelter's counsel sent a letter to
Smith's counsel stating that the information sought by
Request for Production No. 1 is relevant and discoverable
notwithstanding the confidentiality provision. (R. Doc.
November 3, 2017, Smith's counsel sent a letter to
Shelter's counsel stating, in relevant part, that
“[a]s to the assignment of rights . . . I do not
personally object to disclosing the document but there is a
confidentiality clause which prevents me from doing so absent
a court order. I will, in response to any motion you may
file, submit the document, under seal, and comply with any
court order [requiring] disclosure.” (R. Doc. 81-4).
November 29, 2017, Shelter filed the instant Motion, which
seeks an order requiring the assignment of rights to be
produced. (R. Doc. 81). Smith opposes the Motion on the basis
that Shelter has had the opportunity to verify that the
assignment is a valid contract through other forms of
discovery. (R. Doc. 84 at 1-2). Smith further states that he
“will produce the requested document” as the
Court deems appropriate, but requests that the document be
“produced under seal” and, if the document is
filed into the record as an exhibit, that it be filed under
seal. (R. Doc. 84 at 2).
Law and Analysis
otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is
as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any
non-privileged 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The court must
limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it determines
that: “(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably
cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other
source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less
expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample
opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the
action; or (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope
permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).
a party withholds information otherwise discoverable by
claiming that the information is privileged or subject to
protection as trial-preparation material, the party must: (i)
expressly make the claim; and (ii) describe the nature of the
documents, communications, or tangible things not produced or
disclosed--and do so in a manner that, without revealing
information itself privileged or protected, will enable other
parties to assess the claim.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(5)(A).
court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party
or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue
burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Rule
26(c)'s “good cause” requirement indicates
that the party seeking a protective order has the burden
“to show the necessity of its issuance, which
contemplates a particular and specific demonstration of fact
as distinguished from stereotyped and conclusory
statements.” In ...