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Ball v. USAA Life Insurance Co.

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

September 25, 2017

CHERYL BALL, individually and on behalf of the ESTATE OF JAMES MICHAEL BALL, Plaintiff,
v.
USAA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The following matters are before the court on defendant USAA Life Insurance Company's (“USAA”) motion for a protective order, ECF No. 46, and plaintiff Cheryl Ball's (“plaintiff”) motion to compel, ECF No. 49. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants USAA's motion for a protective order and denies plaintiff's motion to compel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that her husband, James Michael Ball (“Ball”), served in the Army for 27 years prior to retiring from active duty. Compl. ¶ 4. Ball applied for life insurance with USAA on April 17, 2012 and obtained two life insurance policies on May 20, 2012. Id. ¶ 5. On December 13, 2013, Ball was killed in a hit and run motor vehicle accident, and the cause of death was listed as blunt force injuries to the head after being ejected from a motorcycle. Id. ¶ 6. After Ball's death, plaintiff submitted a claim for life insurance benefits. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiff alleges that USAA denied her claim on November 24, 2014. Id. Plaintiff filed her complaint on October 27, 2015 in the Court of Common Pleas for Dorchester County, bringing the following causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) insurance bad faith; and (3) attorney's fees pursuant to South Carolina Code § 38-59-40. USAA filed a notice of removal on January 7, 2016.

         Throughout this litigation, plaintiff has attempted to discover certain statistical information regarding USAA's treatment of other policies. On May 16, 2016, the court granted in part plaintiff's motion to compel responses to interrogatories seeking:

the total number of life insurance policies that were issued by USAA Life Insurance Company for the calendar years 2004 through 2014. . . . the total number of life insurance benefit claims that were filed with USAA Life Insurance Company for the calendar years 2004 through 2014. . . . the total number of claims for benefits made on policies that were within the first two years of the date of the policies' issue that were contested or denied by USAA. . . . [the total number of claims in the calendar years 2004-2014 that] USAA denied or contested, in whole or part, on the basis that an insured made a misrepresentation on their application with regard to PTSD, Depression or any other alleged disorder of the nervous system. . . . [and the total number of claims in the calendar years 2004-2014 that] USAA denied or contested, in whole or part, on the basis that an insured made a misrepresentation of their application with regard to receiving a prescription for an anti-depressant or suffering from an alleged mental illness.

ECF No. 24 at 3-4. The court granted plaintiff's motion to compel, but limited the temporal scope of the requests to the five years prior to the action, and limited certain requests to claims from South Carolina. Id. at 4.

         Plaintiff eventually took the depositions of eleven USAA employees. Because plaintiff withdrew her initial 30(b)(6) notice, none of these witnesses were deposed in a 30(b)(6) capacity. Peter Morris (“Morris”), a principal underwriter who participated in the claims investigation for this case, testified about the total number of applications USAA processed every year-one of the subjects addressed by the interrogatories outlined above. Morris's answer was apparently inconsistent with the answer USAA provided in response to the interrogatory. ECF No. 47 at 2. USAA's underwriter, Tamara Schmeling (“Schmeling”) also provided deposition testimony that she reviews somewhere between 2, 600 to 7, 800 applications per year. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff has now renewed her efforts to discover statistical information regarding USAA's treatment of other claims. On February 2, 2017, plaintiff filed a second set of interrogatories, and on February 10, 2017, plaintiff filed a third set of interrogatories. Defendants have objected to the following requests from plaintiff's second set of interrogatories:

1. Provide the total amount of premiums revenue collected by USAA Life Insurance Company from 2009 to 2014.
2. Provide the total number of life insurance claims from 2009 to 2014 that were paid to an insured's family and/or beneficiary after having been denied within the two-year contestability period.
3. Provide the total number of life insurance policies issued by USAA Life Insurance from 2009 to 2014 where the accepted applicant (insured) has listed any of the following conditions on his or her application:
a. Depression
b. Sleep apnea
c. PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
d. TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)

ECF No. 49 at 2-4. Defendant has also objected to the following requests from plaintiff's third set of interrogatories:

1. Provide the total number of life insurance applications processed/received by the Defendant from 2009 to 2014.
2. Provide the total number of life insurance applications that were denied and/or not issued by Defendant ...

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