Robin v. Weeks Marine, Inc.
ORDER AND REASONS granting in part 24 Motion to Compel. Within seven days, Weeks Marine shall produce an unredacted copy of its insurance policy and within 14 days, Weeks Marine shall supplement its response to Request for Production No. 5. Sanctions are not warranted at this time. Signed by Magistrate Judge Janis van Meerveld on 8/3/2017. (ajn)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
WEEKS MARINE, INC., ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 17-1539
JUDGE SUSIE MORGAN
JANIS VAN MEERVELD
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is the Motion to Compel filed by plaintiff Gary Robin (Rec. Doc. 24).
The only issues remaining at this time are whether Weeks Marine is obligated to produce an
unredacted copy of its insurance policy, whether Weeks Marine’s response to Request for
Production Number 5 is sufficient, and whether sanctions are warranted in light of the delay in
production of discovery responses by Weeks Marine. For the following reasons, the Motion to
Compel is GRANTED in part. Within seven days, Weeks Marine shall produce an unredacted
copy of its insurance policy and within 14 days, Weeks Marine shall supplement its response to
Request for Production No. 5. Sanctions are not warranted at this time.
Mr. Robin alleges that he suffered injuries when his recreational boat struck a submerged
stationary pipeline owned and/or installed by Weeks Marine. He filed this lawsuit in Louisiana
state court on January 17, 2017, and contemporaneously served two sets of discovery requests.
Weeks Marine removed the matter to this court on February 23, 2017. Around the same time, it
appears that Weeks Marine agreed to provide responses to the discovery requests by March 20,
2017. According to Mr. Robin, Weeks Marine then insisted that it would not respond to the
discovery requests until after the case management conference under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26(f). Nonetheless, Weeks Marine responded to Mr. Robin’s first discovery requests on
April 3, 2017. This production included a copy of insurance policies, however, these policies
contained redactions. The case management conference was held on May 19, 2017.
Mr. Robin filed the present motion to compel on July 3, 2017, because Weeks Marine had
still not provided responses to his second set of discovery requests and because Weeks Marine
refused to provide unredacted copies of its insurance policies. Weeks Marine filed its opposition
memorandum on July 25, 2017, and represented that it had provided responses to Mr. Robin’s
second set of discovery requests and had not received any complaint from Mr. Robin regarding
their sufficiency. However, Weeks Marine still had not produced unredacted copies of the
insurance policies and insists that it is not obligated to do so. Additionally, Weeks Marine insists
that sanctions are not appropriate here because its refusal to disclose its insurance policy limits is
justified and its delay in answering to Mr. Robin’s discovery requests has not impeded the progress
of the case.
Pursuant to the Scheduling Order issued May 24, 2017, trial in this matter is scheduled for
March 25, 2018, and the parties have until January 16, 2018, to complete discovery.
Law and Analysis
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide 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.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 26(b)(1). In determining proportionality, the parties (and the
Court if called to weigh in) should consider:
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.
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible
in evidence to be discoverable.” Id.
In addition to their obligation to respond to discovery requests, the parties must make initial
disclosures pursuant to Rule 26. This obligation includes the requirement that each party must
provide “for inspection and copying . . . any insurance agreement under which an insurance
business may be liable to satisfy all or part of a possible judgment in the action or to indemnify or
reimburse for payments made to satisfy the judgment.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 26(a)(1)(iv).
A party may move for an order compelling initial disclosures, responses to requests for
production, and responses to interrogatories pursuant to Rule 37. If the motion is granted, the
Court must “after giving an opportunity to be heard, require the party or deponent whose conduct
necessitated the motion, the party or attorney advising that conduct, or both to pay the movant's
reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion, including attorney's fees.” Id. R. 37(a)(5)(A).
However, fees are not to be awarded where: ”(i) the movant filed the motion before attempting in
good faith to obtain the disclosure or discovery without court action; (ii) the opposing party's
nondisclosure, response, or objection was substantially justified; or (iii) other circumstances make
an award of expenses unjust.” Id.
The primary issue at this time is the production of unredacted insurance policies requested
by Mr. Robin. Although Mr. Robin has not couched his demand as derived from Weeks Marine’s
initial disclosure obligations, Weeks Marine is obligated by Rule 26(a)(1)(iv) to disclose the
insurance agreement. The text of this rule does not suggest that disclosure of such agreements may
be limited in any way. At least one other district court in the Fifth Circuit has held that a party
must produce the entire insurance policy under Rule 26(a)(1)(A)(iv) and cannot simply disclose
those portions of the policy that it determines are relevant. Capozzi v. Atwood Oceanics, Inc., No.
CIV.A. 08-776, 2009 WL 3055321, at *2 (W.D. La. Sept. 20, 2009). The only authority that Weeks
Marine cites in support of its argument that it may redact the insurance coverage limits from its
insurance policy dates back to 1968, before the initial disclosure requirements of Rule 26 obligated
disclosure of insurance policies at all. Wood v. Todd Shipyards, 45 F.R.D. 363, 365 (S.D. Tex.
1968). The district court in Wood held that insurance policies were not discoverable because they
were not likely to lead to admissible evidence at the trial. 1 Id. While there may still be some truth
to the Wood court’s observation that “[b]y allowing discovery of insurance limits, the court would
be shifting the emphasis of the litigation from how much the plaintiff was damaged to how much
the defendant can pay,” the amendment of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require
production of insurance liability policies makes clear that such agreements are discoverable.
The Court finds that the unredacted insurance policies must be disclosed. For multiple and
obvious reasons, policy limits are relevant and discoverable. Weeks Marine has not presented
any current authority that would support limiting the plain text of Rule 26(a)(1)(A)(iv). And it has
failed to establish good cause to protect its insurance coverage limits from disclosure.
Mr. Robin also challenges Weeks Marine’s failure to produce any documents in response
to his Request for Production No. 5, which seeks documents notifying Weeks Marine of any
incidents regarding contact or collision with the pipeline at issue here. Weeks Marine responded
that it was “searching for documents responsive to this request.” Mr. Robin complains that the
response is insufficient. Mr. Robin notes that the request was made over six months ago. But this
case is still in its early stages with the discovery deadline more than five months away.
Nonetheless, the Court finds that Weeks Marine is obligated to respond and shall supplement its
This discovery standard is also outdated.
response within 14 days to produce responsive documents or to confirm that the search is complete
and no documents have been found.
Mr. Robin also insists that sanctions are justified given the “severe delay” in Weeks
Marine’s discovery responses, which were apparently provided 18 days after the filing of the
present motion. This was nearly six months after being served with the discovery requests, but it
was only about two months after the parties’ Rule 26(f) conference. As Weeks Marine’s counsel
pointed out in correspondence to counsel for Mr. Robin, “[a] party may not seek discovery from
any source before the parties have conferred as required by Rule 26(f) . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. Proc.
26(d)(1). Mr. Robin filed the present motion to compel less than seven weeks following the Rule
26(f) conference. Although there is no dispute that Weeks Marine’s response was untimely, the
Court finds that responses about two months following the initiation of discovery under the Federal
Rules is not severe in a case such as this one. Further, with a discovery deadline in January 2018
and a trial date in March 2018, the Court finds little prejudice caused by Weeks Marine’s delay.
Additionally, the Court finds that the parties made insufficient efforts to meet and confer prior to
bringing this motion to the Court’s attention. The only thing Mr. Robin’s counsel has pointed to is
e-mail correspondence demanding responses. A good faith attempt to meet and confer typically
requires an in person meeting or a telephone call. The Court adds that there is no indication that
Weeks Marine has failed to observe prior orders of this Court. Although Weeks Marine’s refusal
to produce its insurance policy without redaction was poorly supported, the Court finds that the
parties may have been able to resolve this issue had they met and conferred in good faith.
Accordingly, the Court finds that it would be unjust to award sanctions at this time.
For the foregoing reasons, the Motion to Compel is GRANTED in part. Within seven days,
Weeks Marine shall produce an unredacted copy of its insurance policy and within 14 days, Weeks
Marine shall supplement its response to Request for Production No. 5. Sanctions are not warranted
at this time.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 3rd day of August, 2017.
Janis van Meerveld
United States Magistrate Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?