It is not breaking news that attorneys retained by insurance companies to adjust claims are susceptible to discovery, including depositions. Indeed, I have blogged about that in the past. This post discusses a recent decision out of the United States District Court of Arizona broadening the discovery susceptibility of carrier attorneys.1
In the Arizona case, the plaintiff (Barten) noticed the deposition of “an associate general counsel for State Farm [who] heads the litigation support section.” Barten wished to question the State Farm attorney about State Farm’s “centralized document repository.” Indeed, the State Farm attorney was “quoted at some length in an article discussing State Farm’s electronic document archival and retrieval system.” The Court summed up Barten’s intentions as follows: “Apparently, Barten intends to ask [State Farm’s attorney] how State Farm stores its documents and how that repository was searched to comply with his discovery requests.”
State Farm, of course, filed a motion for protective order. In it they argued the proposed deposition was “little more than a fishing expedition designed to annoy, embarrass, oppress and unduly burden a State Farm attorney who has no direct involvement in the defense of the present litigation or with the handling of the underlying claim.”
The Court denied State Farm’s motion for protective order, holding Barten had the “right to determine how State Farm processed his past requests and if there are any other documents responsive to his discovery requests that [State Farm] ha[s] not yet produced.” In denying State Farm’s motion, the Court also opined that “if Barten can establish that State Farm has not acted diligently, it would be some evidence on the issue of [State Farm’s] credibility.”
To read previous posts in my series on dynamite discovery decisions, click here.
1 Barten v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. Civ. 12-399 (D. Ariz. Aug. 19, 2013).