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AKH Co., Inc. v. Universal Underwriters Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 18, 2014

AKH COMPANY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSAL UNDERWRITERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant,

ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL

KENNETH G. GALE, Magistrate Judge.

Now before the Court is Plaintiff's "Motion to Compel Production of Documents." (Doc. 117.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part this motion.

BACKGROUND

The above-captioned matter is a declaratory judgment action based on a dispute concerning insurance coverage and the settlement of a trademark dispute involving Plaintiff and a third party. ( See Doc. 1; Doc. 75, sealed, at 5-6 (underlying litigation hereinafter referred to as "RT litigation" or "RT case).) The facts of the case were summarized by District Court in its Order (Doc. 75, sealed) denying Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 7) and Defendant's Motion to Bifurcate (Doc. 68). The Court incorporates that factual summary herein. ( See Doc. 75, sealed, at 4-7.)

The present motion involves Plaintiffs request for an order compelling Defendant to produce documents responsive to certain of Plaintiff's second, third, and fourth sets of Requests for Production of Documents.[1] Plaintiff contends Defendant's responses to the second and third sets were untimely (resulting in a waiver of any objections) and incomplete. Plaintiff further contends that no responses were given to the fourth set. (Doc. 118, at 8.) Plaintiff also disputes certain objections raised by Defendant in response to the discovery requests. Each issue will be addressed in turn.

DISCUSSION

A. Timeliness.

Plaintiff contends that Defendant waived its objections to Plaintiff's second and third document requests by failing to respond within the thirty days allotted by Fed.R.Civ.P. 34. (Doc. 118, at 11-13.) Plaintiff continues that although Defendant sought an extension to respond to the second set, the responses were still late and that no extension was requested or received for the third set. ( Id. ) Plaintiff also contends that Defendant did not respond to Plaintiffs Fourth Requests in a timely fashion, thus waiving all objections. (Doc. 118, at 36-37.) Defendant responds that its discovery responses and privilege log were timed according to agreements between the parties. Thus, the responses were not "late" and no objections have been waived. (Doc. 129, at 15-17.) These issues are not addressed in Plaintiff's reply. (Doc. 135.) As such, the Court will accept Defendant's representations as true and decide the issues between the parties on the merits.

B. Standards for Discovery.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) states that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." As such, the requested information must be both nonprivileged and relevant to be discoverable.

"Discovery relevance is minimal relevance, ' which means it is possible and reasonably calculated that the request will lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Teichgraeber v. Memorial Union Corp. of Emporia State University, 932 F.Supp. 1263, 1265 (D. Kan. 1996) (internal citation omitted). "Relevance is broadly construed at the discovery stage of the litigation and a request for discovery should be considered relevant if there is any possibility the information sought may be relevant to the subject matter of the action." Smith v. MCI Telecommunications Corp., 137 F.R.D. 25, 27 (D.Kan.1991). Stated another way, "discovery should ordinarily be allowed unless it is clear that the information sought can have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the action." Snowden By and Through Victor v. Connaught Lab., 137 F.R.D. 325, 341 (D.Kan.1991), appeal denied, 1991 WL 60514 (D.Kan. Mar. 29 , 1991).

The scope of discovery is broad, but not unlimited. If the proponent has failed to specify how the information is relevant, the Court will not require the respondent to produce the evidence. Gheesling v. Chater, 162 F.R.D. 649 (D. Kan. 1995). In this context, the Court will address the various objections raised document requests at issue.

C. Specific Requests.

1. Claims file.

Plaintiff argues that it "needs the entire claims file to establish its rights" but that Defendant has failed to produce it in its entirety "relying on unsupported claims of privilege." (Doc. 118, at 14.) Plaintiff continues that Defendant has "withheld thousands of pages of claims file documents based on claims of privilege and has provided other documents with extensive redactions." ( Id. ) Plaintiff argues that these documents are not privileged because "decisions on claims handling are part of the insurance company's everyday business." ( Id. ) Plaintiff also argues that "communications explaining, justifying and acting on decisions about defense and settlement are not only highly relevant to proving ...


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