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Progressive Northwestern Insurance Co. v. Gant

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 4, 2017

PROGRESSIVE NORTHWESTERN INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant,
v.
GABRIEL GANT, et al., Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL

          KENNETH G. GALE United States Magistrate Judge.

         Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Compel. (Doc. 212.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as more fully set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a declaratory judgment action brought by Plaintiff Progressive Northwestern Insurance Company (“Plaintiff” or “Progressive”). Plaintiff requests a finding that its handling of an underlying claim and lawsuit, resulting from a fatal automobile accident, “was appropriate, in good faith, and consistent with the Progressive Policy and all duties imposed upon it by law or otherwise.” (See Doc. 1, at 5; Doc. 14, at 7.) Issues with the handling relate specifically to counsel (Kevin McMaster) retained by Plaintiff for its insured, who were defendants in the underlying action. McMaster is alleged to have engaged in conduct described as “obstructionist, ” “highly prejudicial, ” and “to the extreme detriment” of the defendants in the underlying lawsuit. (See generally Doc. 6-5.)

         Additional facts relating to this case, as well as to the underlying lawsuit, were summarized in the District Court's Memorandum and Order granting Defendants leave to answer out of time, Plaintiff's motion to strike, and Plaintiff's motion to dismiss. (See Doc. 92, at 1-3.) That summary is incorporated herein by reference.

         The present motion relates to Plaintiff's responses to Defendants' Second Requests for Production. (See Doc. 212.) As a matter of context, the Court previously granted in part and denied in part Defendants first Motion to Compel, which dealt with a prior set of discovery requests seeking the same general information as the requests currently at issue - prior instances of “bad behavior” by Kevin McMaster, counsel retained by Plaintiff to represent various insureds. (See Order, Doc. 186.)

         In that prior Order, this Court generally agreed that

evidence of prior notice to the insurer of McMaster's previous bad conduct in other cases is relevant to Defendants' theory of Progressive's potential negligence or bad faith in retaining McMaster to represent its insureds. The Court also acknowledges Defendants' argument that the requests are proportional to the needs of the case pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 given the significant outstanding judgment in this case. (Doc. 117, at 10-11.)
Even so, the Court finds the Requests at issue to be inherently overbroad and unduly burdensome. This is especially true of the information that is available to Defendants as public record (pleadings, court orders, etc.) or through other sources (transcripts). Plaintiff's objection as to pleadings, court orders, and other documents of public record is sustained.
Defendants' requests for all discovery, all correspondence exchanged between counsel, and all correspondence between Plaintiff Progressive and McMaster are also facially overbroad. Discovery exchanged and answered by both parties on any and all topics relevant to other the lawsuits identified would clearly encompass more information that was irrelevant than relevant. All of the requested correspondence in these cases would equally encompass volumes of documents that are entirely irrelevant to these proceedings.
Plaintiff's overbreadth and burdensome objections are sustained as to the requested discovery and correspondence sought in Requests Nos. 9-14. Defendants' motion is DENIED in regard to Requests Nos. 9-14. Because the discovery requests are so broadly written, the Court cannot endeavor to rewrite or narrow them to make them appropriate. To the extent Defendants want specific information that is encompassed within these categories, Defendants are instructed to serve revised discovery requests.

         (Doc. 186, at 5-6.)

         Thereafter, Defendant served his Second Requests for Production, which he contends “complied with the Court's directives” and they were more narrowly tailored and sought “much more specific information.” (Doc. 213, at 4.) Even so, Plaintiff objected that much of the requested information is irrelevant. (See Doc. 212-1.) The parties subsequently participated in an informal telephone conference with the Court to discuss the issues relating to the Second Requests for Production. Following ...


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