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Alvey v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

February 9, 2018

HEATHER ALVEY PLAINTIFF
v.
STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY DEFENDANT

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge

         Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Lanny King for ruling on all discovery motions. (Docket # 8). DEFENDANT, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“State Farm”) filed a Motion for Protective Order requesting limitations on the scope and extent of designated topics for a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice. (Docket # 25). Plaintiff, Heather Alvey, filed her Response to this Motion (Docket # 27) and State Farm filed its Reply (Docket # 28). Fully briefed, this Motion is ripe for adjudication. For reasons detailed below, Defendant's Motion for Protective Order is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         Background

         This action arises out of a fire to the home being rented by Plaintiff, Heather Alvey, in Paducah, Kentucky on or about February 22, 2016. It is undisputed that at the relevant times, Alvey had a renter's policy with State Farm that, in part, insured the contents of the home. State Farm contends that it investigated and denied the claim on the following grounds that Alvey: a) intentionally set the fire and Alvey had motive and opportunity to burn the home; b) made material representations in the presentation of her claim that voided the policy; and c) failed to comply with her duties to cooperate under the policy. Alvey brought suit against State Farm for breach of contract and statutory and common-law bad faith.

         Procedural History

         On June 28, 2017, the Court bifurcated and stayed discovery on the statutory and common-law bad faith claims until resolution of the breach of contract claim. (Docket # 12). The parties exchanged written discovery and State Farm deposed Alvey.

         On August 16, 2017, Alvey served State Farm with a Rule 30(b)(6) notice for September 22, 2017. (Docket # 15). On September 21, 2017, Alvey served State Farm with another Rule 30(b)(6) notice to reschedule the September deposition to October 25, 2017. (Docket # 16). On October 19, 2017, State Farm served Alvey with its objections to the Rule 30(b)(6) notice for October 25, 2017. (Docket # 28-3). On November 29, 2017, Alvey served State Farm with a third Rule 30(b)(6) notice for January 5, 2018. (Docket # 20). On December 18, 2017, State Farm served Alvey with its objections to the Rule 30(b)(6) notice for January 5, 2018. (Docket # 25-3, Exhibit B). On December 19, 2017, Alvey served State Farm with a fourth Rule 30(b)(6) notice for January 10, 2018. (Docket # 23).

         On January 9, 2018, the Court held a telephonic conference where the parties discussed filing a motion for protective order and an expedited schedule for the Motion. (Docket # 26). The Court set the following schedule for the Motion: “The motion for protective order regarding 30 (b)(6) depositions shall (be) filed by January 18, 2018, a response shall be filed by January 25, 2018, and a reply by January 30, 2018.” (Docket # 26). Alvey then re-noticed the scheduled Rule 30(b)(6) deposition for February 20, 2018. (Docket # 24). State Farm timely filed this Motion for Protective Order on January 16, 2018. (Docket # 25).

         After filing a Response Brief, Plaintiff's counsel requested oral argument on the pending motion. Because the parties are in need of an expedited ruling on this Motion and have had adequate opportunity to state their positions in the briefs, the Court deems oral argument unnecessary.

         The Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice provides that pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6), “State Farm is required to designate and fully prepare one or more officers, directors, managing agents or other persons who consent to testify on behalf of State Farm, and whom State Farm will fully prepare to testify regarding all information that is known or reasonably available to State Farm's organization, ” followed by a list of six topic areas and a total of thirty-one subtopics. Although State Farm's Motion does not specifically identify which topics and subtopics it disputes, State Farm generally seeks a Protective Order excluding communications and materials protected by the work-product doctrine, communications and materials relating to the bad faith claim, and communications and materials not proportional to the breach of contract claim.

         State Farm's Motion

         State Farm argues that a party seeking discovery must describe the matters to be explored in the deposition with “reasonable particularity” and that the topics be limited by the scope of permissible discovery. State Farm asserts that the Court should grant its Motion for Protective Order and limit the topics of discovery because: 1) the work-product doctrine protects portions of State Farm's investigation claim file; 2) certain topics are overly broad, irrelevant, and not proportional to the needs of the breach of contract case; 3) certain topics relate to Alvey's bad-faith claims, which have been stayed pending resolution of this claim; and 4) certain requests could require the corporate representative to testify to the entirety of the renter's policy and related materials, which is also overly broad.

         Alvey's Response

         Alvey filed a lengthy response in opposition to State Farm's Motion for Protective Order. Alvey argues that her deposition notice directly follows the language of Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6) and the language provided in Hartford Fire Ins. Co. v. P & H Cattle Co., No. CIV.A. 05-2001-DJW, 2009 WL 2951120, at *1 (D. Kan. Sept. 10, 2009). Alvey contends that notice is “reasonably particular” because one can discern what is being sought from the plain language of the notice. Alvey argues that State Farm's corporate representative should be required to testify to each and every topic and subpart listed in her Rule 30(b)(6) Notice because: 1) State Farm waived its objections by failing to file its Motion for Protective Order prior to the January 10, 2018 deposition; 2) State Farm waived its attorney-client privilege by failing to provide a proper privilege log; 3) State Farm's investigation claim file is relevant, discoverable, and may be the only way to show that State Farm breached its contract with Alvey; 4) all of the facts, information, and/or documents that Alvey requests the corporate representative to testify to was obtained through discovery; and 5) Alvey is entitled to inquire about the entire contract because it is a breach of contract claim.

         Legal Standard

          “Rule 26(b)(1) is the touchstone for the scope of civil discovery.” Pogue v. NorthWestern Mut. Life Ins. Co., No. 3:14-CV-598-CRS, 2017 WL 3044763, at *4 (W.D. Ky. July 18, 2017). Rule 26(b)(1) provides that “[p]arties 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). Relevance is to be “construed broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter[s] that could bear on any party's claim or defense. The Court has wide discretion when dealing with discovery matters, including whether information might be relevant.” Pogue, 2017 WL 3044763, at *5 (citations omitted).

         Rule 26(b)(2) addresses limitations on the frequency and extent of discovery. See Schall v. Suzuki Motor of Am., Inc., No. 4:14CV-00074-JHM, 2017 WL 4050319, at *4 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 13, 2017); Pogue, 2017 WL 3044763, at *5. Subpart (b)(2)(C) provides:

         (C) When Required. On motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it determines that:

(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, ...

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