United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS ON MOTION
C. WILKINSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
asserts that defendant denied her claim for long-term
disability benefits in bad faith, and she seeks recovery of
those benefits pursuant to § 502(a)(1)(B) of the
Employee Retirement Income Act of 1974 (“ERISA”)
(29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B)). Record Doc. No. 1 at
¶¶ 1 and 4. Anne Wittmann (“Wittmann”)
was formerly employed as an attorney at Baker, Donelson,
Bearman, Caldwell, Berkowitz PC (“Baker
Donelson”). Record Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 8. She was a
plan participant under a group benefits plan underwritten and
administered by defendant Unum Life Insurance Company of
America (“Unum”) for the benefit of Baker
Donelson employees. Id. at ¶ 1; Record Doc. No.
4 at p. 1.
contends that she became disabled and ceased work on December
31, 2013, and she sought disability benefits on April 2,
2014. Record Doc. Nos. 1 at ¶¶ 8 and 9 and 16-2 at
p. 2. Defendant denied her claim on October 3, 2014.
Id. at ¶ 16 and p. 2. Plaintiff appealed
Unum's decision, and Unum denied her appeal on May 29,
2015 and July 20, 2015. Record Doc. No. 16-2 at p. 2. She
then filed this action against the plan on September 22,
2017, under 502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA, requesting that this court
declare her entitled to benefits under the plan. Record Doc.
No. 1 at p. 5.
January 22, 2018, plaintiff propounded interrogatories,
requests for admission and requests for production of
documents on defendant. Plaintiff requested that defendant
produce evidence “pertaining to the extent of
[Unum's] conflict of interest as both underwriter and
claims administrator of her Long Term Disability Insurance
Plan (the “Plan”).” Record Doc. No. 16-4 at
p. 1. Defendant responded on February 21, 2018, and objected
to plaintiff's requests as vague, ambiguous, overbroad,
compound, burdensome, irrelevant, invasive of the rights of
individual employees or other insureds and protected
attorney-client privilege or work product. Record Doc. Nos.
16-2 at p. 1 and 16-5 at pp. 1-2.
moved to compel on May 27, 2018. Record Doc. No. 16.
Plaintiff's original motion papers were substantially
unhelpful to the court because they took a
blunderbus approach to the relief plaintiff sought.
Specifically, her original memorandum in support of the
motion identified alleged deficiencies only in
defendant's responses to Interrogatories Nos. 2, 8, 9,
10, 17 and 18; Requests for Production Nos. 3, 4 and 8 and
Requests for Admission Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.
April 9, 2018, defendant filed its opposition memorandum,
principally arguing that plaintiff is not entitled to the
requested discovery because the administrative record is
sufficient for the court to determine whether and the extent
to which Unum's conflict of interest improperly
influenced plaintiff's benefits decision. Record Doc. No.
addition, defendant supplemented its responses to the
discovery requests on April 6, 2018, and attached its
supplemental responses to its opposition memorandum. Record
Doc. No. 24-1 at p. 47. Plaintiff filed a reply to
defendant's opposition memorandum on April 10, 2018, in
which she asserts that Unum's supplemental responses
remain deficient. Record Doc. No. 27. It was only in the
reply memorandum that plaintiff specifically identified
additional discovery responses she alleges are deficient. The
court will address only those responses specifically
identified as allegedly deficient in plaintiff's
supporting and reply briefs and deems waived any deficiency
argument as to requests not so
Civ. P. 26(b)(1) states in pertinent part that
“[p]arties 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 .
. . . Information within this scope of discovery need not be
admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Limitations
on discovery include those set out in Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(2)(C), including that the court must limit the
frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by the
Rules 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b)(2)(C)(i) and (ii).
is further limited in ERISA cases. As outlined by this court
in a recent case, binding United States Court of Appeals for
the Fifth Circuit precedent provides that
[w]ith respect to ERISA actions brought under 29 U.S.C.
§ 1132(a), courts are charged with monitoring discovery
“closely” because review is “essentially
analogous to a review of an administrative agency
decision.” Crosby v. La. Health Servs. & Indem.
Co., 647 F.3d 258, 264 (5th Cir. 2011). As such,
discovery is disallowed where it would constitute
reconsideration of the administrative record and whether
coverage should have ultimately been afforded. Vega v.
Nat'l Life Ins. Servs., Inc., 188 F.3d 287, 299-300
(5th Cir. 1999), abrogated on other grounds by Met. Life
Ins. Co. v. Glenn, 554 U.S. 105 (2008). However, this
prohibition does not extend to other questions which may
arise in an ERISA action, such as “(1) the completeness
of the administrative record; (2) the plan
administrator's compliance with ERISA's procedural
regulations; and (3) the existence and extent of a
conflict of interest created by a plan administrator's
dual role in making benefits determinations and funding the
plan.” Crosby, 647 F.3d at 263 (emphasis
Fluitt v. Mut. of Omaha Ins. Co., No. 12-2800, 2013
WL 3930090, at *2 (E.D. La. July 26, 2013) (Roby, M.J.). In
[e]vidence is irrelevant to the validity of the decision
regarding coverage under the plan unless it “is in the
administrative record, relates to how the administrator has
interpreted the plan in the past, or would assist the court
in understanding medical terms and procedures.”
Crosby, 647 F.3d at 263. The district court hewed
carefully to this limitation, striking offending portions and
admitting only ...