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State Farm Fire and Casualty Company and Maurice Lavon Robinson v. Admiral Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

July 25, 2016

State Farm Fire and Casualty Company and Maurice Lavon Robinson, Plaintiffs,
v.
Admiral Insurance Company, Defendant.

          State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Plaintiff, represented by Kevin Mitchell Barth, Ballenger Barth and Hoefer, Linda Weeks Gangi, Thompson and Henry & W. James Hoffmeyer, Law Office of W James Hoffmeyer.

          Maurice Lavon Robinson, Plaintiff, represented by Kevin Mitchell Barth, Ballenger Barth and Hoefer, Linda Weeks Gangi, Thompson and Henry & W. James Hoffmeyer, Law Office of W James Hoffmeyer.

          Admiral Insurance Company, Defendant, represented by John Robert Murphy, Murphy and Grantland & Wesley Brian Sawyer, Murphy and Grantland.

          Admiral Insurance Company, Counter Claimant, represented by Wesley Brian Sawyer, Murphy and Grantland.

          State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, Counter Defendant, represented by Kevin Mitchell Barth, Ballenger Barth and Hoefer, Linda Weeks Gangi, Thompson and Henry & W. James Hoffmeyer, Law Office of W James Hoffmeyer.

          ORDER

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL, District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Admiral Insurance Company's ("Admiral") motion to compel Plaintiff State Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") to produce certain documents. For the reasons given below the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Mr. Robinson alleges that that Admiral's failure to defend and to indemnify him in an underlying lawsuit was a bad-faith breach of contract. In the underlying lawsuit, James McElveen sought redress for significant physical injuries that he suffered at a fraternity hazing event hosted in Mr. Robinson's home. Admiral provided liability coverage for the fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, and the fraternity's national president, Jimmy Hammock. State Farm provided homeowner's coverage for Mr. Robinson. State Farm retained James Hoffmeyer to defend Mr. Robinson. Mr Robinson retained Henry Anderson as his personal counsel regarding the hazing event; Mr. Anderson represented Mr. Robinson in the related criminal case.

         Admiral agreed to settle Mr. McElveen's claims against Phi Beta Sigma and Mr. Hammock for $500, 000 (half of its $1, 000, 000 "Each Occurrence" policy limit). Mr. Robinson was not included in that settlement. State Farm rejected a settlement offer of $300, 000 (its policy limit) and instead chose to go to trial. Mr. McElveen won a $1, 584, 000 judgment. State Farm ultimately paid $975, 000 to settle that judgment. Mr. Robinson filed this bad-faith action within the Court's diversity jurisdiction, claiming that he was an insured under the Admiral policy and therefore should have been included in the Admiral settlement. State Farm joined his action to seek recovery for the amounts it paid.

         Admiral asserts that State Farm's February 24, 2016 responses to Request for Production numbers six ("RFP 6") and seven ("RFP 7") are deficient. State Farm responds that the documents in question are privileged from production by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine. Admiral now moves to compel State Farm to produce documents responsive to those requests, and to produce certain other documents itemized on State Farm's privilege log.

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: 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, 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.

         District courts have "wide latitude in controlling discovery and [their] rulings will not be overturned absent a showing of clear abuse of discretion." Ardrey v. United Parcel Serv., 798 F.2d 679, 683 (4th Cir. 1986); Middleton v. Nissan Motor Co., Civ. No. 10-2529, 2012 WL 3612572, at *2 (D.S.C. Aug. 21, 2012).

         III. Discussion

         A. The Attorney-Client Privilege and ...


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