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Graham v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh PA

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

January 12, 2017

DAVID GRAHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Honorable Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff David Graham (“Plaintiff”) is suing Defendant National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (“Defendant”) for breach of insurance policy, bad faith, declaratory judgment, and attorney's fees. ECF No. 1-1. This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's motion to compel (ECF No. 15) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant insured the vehicle driven by Plaintiff through Plaintiff's employer. The insurance policy provided up to $100, 000 coverage for accidents involving uninsured motorists (“UM”). ECF No.1-1 at ¶ 9.[1] The insurance policy does not cover underinsured motorist (“UIM”) accidents. See ECF No. 17-2, 17-6. UM coverage may apply in this case because the at-fault driver had liability insurance for only up to $15, 000, which is below the legal limit required by South Carolina and North Carolina.[2] Id., see ECF No. 17 at 4.

         Plaintiff alleges that on November 29, 2010, Plaintiff was driving his employer's vehicle when he was struck by a Mandy Harmon (“at-fault driver”). ECF No. 1-1 at ¶¶ 4, 7. Plaintiff alleges that he began contacting Defendant in September 2013 to set up a claim. ECF No. 24 at 2. Plaintiff allegedly followed up on October 4, 2013, requesting information on whether Defendant provided coverage for the vehicle at the time of the accident. ECF No. 24-1. Plaintiff alleges Defendant failed to respond, and Plaintiff followed up on November 13, 2013, again with no response. ECF No. 24-2. Plaintiff filed suit against the at-fault driver on November 14, 2013 (“underlying state lawsuit”). ECF No. 1-1 at ¶ 5. On November 21, 2013, Plaintiff faxed a letter requesting Defendant state whether it provided coverage for the vehicle and providing a courtesy copy of the lawsuit against the at-fault driver. ECF No. 24-3. On February 14, 2014, Plaintiff again contacted Defendant, this time by certified mail, and informed Defendant that Plaintiff “will enforce any judgment received against AIG/National Union Fire as it relates to the [at-fault driver] case” and stated that “if [Defendant] would like to appear and defend” then to provide information on whether Defendant provided underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage. ECF No. 24-4. By letter dated March 5, 2014, Defendant responded that it did not provide UIM coverage under the policy. ECF No. 16-2. However, Defendant allegedly provided the policy covering Plaintiff's employer's vehicles in South Carolina, whereas the vehicle Plaintiff had been driving was registered in North Carolina. ECF Nos. 15 at 1; 15-1.[3]

         Plaintiff attempted to seek coverage again, and was denied a second time by letter dated March 5, 2015. Defendant stated that UIM coverage was rejected by Plaintiff's employer; therefore, Defendant did not provide coverage. ECF No. 15-2. However, Defendant cited an incorrect policy number that does not provide coverage for either uninsured or underinsured motorists. See ECF No. 15-4 at 1-2 (applicable policy number is 397-66-87); ECF No. 17 at 4 (providing information on policy number 397-66-88 but stating 397-66-87 may apply in the case). Under the allegedly correct policy number (397-66-87), Defendant provided UM coverage but not UIM coverage. ECF No. 15-3.

         On November 30, 2016, a hearing convened before this court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Defendant moved for summary judgment pursuant to South Carolina Code Annotated § 38-77-150(B), which states that no action may be brought under an uninsured motorist provision “unless copies of the pleadings in the action establishing liability are served . . . upon the insurer writing the uninsured motorist provision.” The court denied summary judgment. ECF No. 30. The court held that given the multiple denials and alleged failures to respond to Plaintiff's inquiries, there was a genuine issue of material fact whether Plaintiff had a reasonable basis to serve Defendant in the underlying state lawsuit.

         On September 23, 2016, the court stayed discovery pursuant to a joint motion to stay. ECF No. 23. Prior to the grant of stay, Defendant produced some documents and provided answers to Plaintiff's interrogatories on June 27, 2016. ECF Nos. 15-4, 15-5, 15-6. Defendant contends that it is not required to disclose any documents created after March 5, 2014, the date of the first denial. See Id. On August 17, 2016, Plaintiff stated, through email, its disagreement with Defendant's contention that Defendant was not required to disclose any documents created after March 5, 2014. ECF No. 17-10 at 2. On August 18, 2016, Plaintiff moved to compel additional responses to (1) Plaintiff's requests for production numbers 4, 5, 7, and 8, and (2) responses to Plaintiff's interrogatories 7 and 8. Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion to compel on grounds of relevance, attorney-client privilege, and work-product doctrine. ECF No. 17. Currently before the court is Plaintiff's motion to compel production of certain documents withheld by Defendant on grounds of relevance, attorney-client privilege, and work-product doctrine. ECF No. 15.

         For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's motion to compel is granted in part as to request for production number 4, 5, and 8, denied as moot as to number 7, [4] and granted as to interrogatories 7 and 8.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that a party “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.P. 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id. Courts are to construe broadly rules enabling discovery. Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947). If a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33 or fails to produce a requested document, “a party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Documents Withheld on Relevance Grounds

         1. Requests for ...


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