PLATT v. FIREMAN'S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER THAT PLAINTIFF MILLICENT PLATT'S MOTION TO OVERRULE OBJECTIONS AND COMPEL RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION PURSUANT TO FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 34 FOR DEFENDANT'S CLAIM MANUALS IS GRANTED; ETC.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE RONALD L. BUCKWALTER ON 11/16/11. 11/17/11 ENTERED AND E-MAILED.(jl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
FIREMAN’S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY,
November 16, 2011
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Millicent Platt’s Motion to Overrule Objections and
Compel Response to Request for Production Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 for
Defendant’s Claims Manuals (“Motion to Overrule Objections”). For the following reasons, the
Motion is granted.
On May 25, 2011, Plaintiff Millicent Platt filed a Complaint against Defendant Fireman’s
Fund Insurance Company in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Defendant
removed the action to this Court on June 22, 2011. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff suffered
severe injures after being struck by a motor vehicle driven by Defendant’s insured on December
23, 2008. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff is suing Defendant for insurance benefits under the
Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1701, et seq., as well as
statutory damages under Pennsylvania’s Bad Faith Statute, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8371.
On July 29, 2011, Plaintiff served Defendant with a Request for Production pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34. Among the documents requested were the manuals
Defendant used to process and handle claims. On August 26, 2011, Defendant objected to this
request, arguing that it was overly broad and unduly burdensome, was neither relevant nor
reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, and called for the
production of privileged and confidential documents. (Pl.’s Mot. Overrule Objections, Ex. A at
7.) On October 3, 2011, Plaintiff filed the present Motion to Overrule Objections. Defendant
filed its Response in Opposition on October 17, 2011. The Motion is now ripe for the Court’s
In her Motion to Overrule Objections, Plaintiff argues that claims manuals and desk
books pertaining to her claims are discoverable, that her counsel pledges to keep these materials
confidential, and that Defendant’s objections to this discovery request contain nothing more than
boilerplate language. (Pl.’s Mot. Overrule Objections 5-6.) In response, Defendant contends that
not only are its guidelines for handling claims proprietary information, they are not relevant to
any issue in this case. (Def.’s Resp. Opp’n 3.)1 In support of this argument, Defendant cites to
Garvey v. Nat’l Grange Mut. Ins. Co., 167 F.R.D. 391 (E.D. Pa. 1996). (Def.’s Resp. Opp’n 56.) There, the court denied the plaintiff’s request for the defendant insurer’s claims manuals,
concluding that they “do not pertain to whether the plaintiff’s present claim for loss is ‘covered’
under the insurance contract issued by the defendant. Moreover, the fact that the defendant may
have strayed from its internal procedures does not establish bad faith on the part of the defendant
Defendant argues that the Court should deny Plaintiff’s Motion because it does not
include a discussion of relevance. (Def.’s Resp. Opp’n 3.) Although Plaintiff does not expressly
address this issue, she cites several cases for the proposition that claims manuals are discoverable
in connection with a bad faith claim against an insurance company. (Pl.’s Mot. Overrule
Objections 5-6.) Accordingly, the Court will not deny the Motion on relevance grounds.
in handling the plaintiff’s loss.” Garvey, 167 F.R.D. at 396.
While the Garvey court found that the defendant’s claims manuals were not discoverable
in that particular case, there are instances where such materials may be relevant to a bad faith
claim.2 For example, in Kaufman v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., No. Civ.A.97-1114, 1997 WL
703175 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 12, 1997), the court specifically acknowledged the Garvey decision, but
there may be circumstances when such discovery would be relevant. For example,
a claims manual could be relevant if it requires an adjustor to take certain
investigative steps before adjusting a claim and plaintiff can show that these steps
were deliberately omitted. Although this fact alone would not be enough to establish
bad faith, surely it is probative evidence for plaintiff to demonstrate bad faith.
Id. at *2 n.2. The court therefore ordered the defendant to produce the portions of its manuals
which concerned the procedures used in handling the plaintiff’s claims. Id. at *2.
Other post-Garvey opinions have come to similar conclusions. See Saldi v. Paul Revere
Life Ins. Co., 224 F.R.D. 169, 177 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (“Garvey’s admonition that straying from
internal procedures does not establish bad faith does not mean that straying from internal
procedures is never probative evidence of bad faith.”); Safeguard Lighting Sys., Inc. v. N. Am.
Specialty Ins. Co., No. Civ.A.03-4145, 2004 WL 3037947, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 4, 2004) (“[A]ny
material which pertains to instructions and procedures for adjusting claims and which was given
to the adjusters who worked on plaintiffs’ claim may be relevant to the action and must be
produced.”); Robertson v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. Civ.A.98-4909, 1999 WL 179754, at *6 (E.D.
Pa. Mar. 10, 1999) (“Given the liberal scope of federal discovery and the fact that such
Significantly, the defendant in Garvey provided the court with the documents at issue
so that they could be reviewed in camera. 167 F.R.D. at 393. Here, the Court has not seen
Defendant’s claims manuals, and therefore has not had the benefit of such review.
information may lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, [the defendant] is ordered to
produce claims or procedure manuals setting forth company practices or policies” pertaining to
claims such as the plaintiff’s).
After reviewing the pertinent case law, the Court finds that the materials used by
Defendant in processing Plaintiff’s insurance claims may be relevant to her cause of action for
bad faith. As noted above, “a claims manual could be relevant if it requires an adjustor to take
certain investigative steps before adjusting a claim and plaintiff can show that these steps were
deliberately omitted.” Kaufman, 1997 WL 703175, at *2 n.2. Therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion to
Overrule Objections is granted. The Court also recognizes, however, that Plaintiff’s request may
be overly broad and pertain to confidential subject matter. The Court therefore follows the
holding in Safeguard Lighting and limits the scope of discovery on this issue to “any material
which pertains to instructions and procedures for adjusting claims and which was given to the
adjusters who worked on [Plaintiff’s] claim.” 2004 WL 3037947, at *3 (emphasis added).
Finally, both Plaintiff and her counsel are ordered to keep confidential all materials they receive
in response to this discovery request and any information they learn from those materials.
For all of the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that Defendant’s claims manuals or other
materials used to process Plaintiff’s insurance claims may be relevant to the cause of action for
bad faith. Therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion to Overrule Objections is granted, and Defendant is
ordered to provide Plaintiff with any material which pertains to instructions and procedures for
adjusting claims and which was given to the adjusters who worked on Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff
and her counsel are ordered to keep confidential all materials they receive in response to this
discovery request and any information they learn from those materials.
An appropriate Order follows.
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