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Davis v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co.

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

October 17, 2018

RICHARD E. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
HARTFORD LIFE & ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S OPINION AND ORDER

          CLARIA HORN BOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the plaintiff's Objection to Magistrate Judge's Opinion and Order [R. 104] and the defendant's Motion for Leave to File Response to Plaintiff's Objection to Magistrate Judge's Opinion and Order [R. 106].

         This discovery dispute dates back at least three years. On July 21, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion to compel responses to interrogatories and requests for production. [R. 27] After briefing, on November 24, 2015, Senior Judge Russell granted the motion in part and denied it in part. [R. 35] Eventually, after additional discovery and motion practice, the plaintiff filed another motion to compel on October 23, 2017, this time regarding his second set of requests for production. [R. 95] On January 9, 2018, after briefing, Magistrate Judge Lanny King signed an Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part this second motion to compel. [R. 103] Specifically, Magistrate Judge King denied the motion to compel as to Requests for Production numbers 27-32 and 34-38, and both parties' requests for attorneys' fees and costs. [R. 103 at 20-21] However, Magistrate Judge King granted in part the motion as to compel as to Request for Production number 33. Id. at 14-15, 20. On January 23, 2018, the plaintiff filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's Opinion and Order. [R. 104] On February 6, 2018, the defendant moved for leave to file a response to the plaintiff's objections [R. 106], to which motion the plaintiff responded [R. 107].

         I. Motion for Leave to File Response

         As a preliminary matter, the Court will grant the defendant's Motion for Leave to File Response to Plaintiff's Objection to Magistrate Judge's Memorandum Opinion and Order [R. 106]. Local Rule 72.2, titled “Objections to Non-Dispositive Ruling of Magistrate Judge, ” clearly provides that “[u]nless directed by the Court, no party may file any response to a written objection.” LR 72.2 (emphasis added). Thus, the local rule clearly contemplates the discretionary authority of the Court to grant leave for a party to file a response to a written objection to a Magistrate Judge's non-dispositive ruling. The rule does not contain a blanket “clear prohibition on [such] responses” even where the Court grants leave to file one. Contra R. 107 at 1. Because the Court believes that the defendant's response will aid it in resolving the issues, it will grant the motion to file the response and deem the response to be already timely filed.

         II. Standard of Review for Objections to Magistrate Judge's Order

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, the district court reviews timely objections to a magistrate judge's order on non-dispositive matters under a “limited” standard of review: the district court “must . . . modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Massey v. City of Ferndale, 7 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 1993); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).

         A finding of fact “is clearly erroneous when ‘the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'” Fausz v. NPAS, Inc., No. 3:15-CV-00145-CRS-DW, 2017 WL 1227943, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 31, 2017); Knox v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., No. 3:13-CV-00424-CRS, 2014 WL 7004067, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Dec. 10, 2014) (both citing Heights Cmty. Cong. v. Hilltop Realty, Inc., 774 F.2d 135, 140 (6th Cir. 1985). Under this standard, the question is not whether the magistrate judge's factual conclusions were “the best or only conclusion[s] that can be drawn from the evidence.” Knox, 2014 WL 7004067 at *2 (citing Tri-Star Airlines, Inc. v. Willis Careen Corp. of Los Angeles, 75 F.Supp.2d 835, 839 (W.D. Tenn. 1999)). “This standard does not permit the reviewing court to substitute its own conclusion for that of the magistrate judge.” Tri-Star, 75 F.Supp.2d 835 at 839. Instead, the court need only “determine if there is any evidence to support the magistrate judge's finding and that the finding was reasonable.” Id.; Knox, 2014 WL 7004067 at *2.

         By contrast, “[t]he magistrate judge's legal conclusions . . . are subject to the plenary contrary-to-law standard. A legal conclusion is contrary to law when it contradicts or ignores applicable precepts of law, as found in the Constitution, statutes, or case precedent. Therefore, the Court must exercise ‘independent judgment' in reviewing the legal conclusions of the magistrate judge.” Knox, 2014 WL 7004067 at *2 (citing Gandee v. Glaser, 785 F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992), aff'd, 19 F.3d 1432 (6th Cir. 1994)) (internal citations omitted). Here, as the Magistrate Judge's Opinion and Order ably reviews both the facts and the applicable law, the Court will only discuss those aspects of each which are necessary to resolve the plaintiff's objections.

         III. Objections to Magistrate Judge King's Order

         A. Request for Production No. 27 - “Claims Excellence” Manual

         The plaintiff first objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that he was not entitled to the “Claims Excellence” manual (sought in Request for Production number 27), because he did not prove that it was actually used in his claim or appeal. [R. 104 at 4-5]

         The Court finds that Magistrate Judge King's finding on this point was not clearly erroneous. There is evidence to support his finding, and it is reasonable. The Magistrate Judge based this finding on the deposition testimony of Annette Moore, the defendant's Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6) witness. [R. 103 at 8] Moore's deposition testimony contains no statement that the manual is actually utilized in every claim and appeal, much less that it was used in the plaintiff's claim and appeal in particular. Rather, her testimony describes general training procedures including use of the “Claims Excellence” manual. This is precisely the sort of general, nonspecific discovery which is disallowed in these types of ERISA cases (as discussed below).

         The plaintiff also objects that he is entitled to the production of these documents because they “are part of the training the individuals received, ” [R. 104 at 6], based on two cases: Myers v. Anthem Life Ins. Co., 316 F.R.D. 186, 206 (W.D. Ky. 2016) and Mullins v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 267 F.R.D. 504, 520 (W.D. Ky. 2010). While Magistrate Judge King's Order did not analyze this argument, the Court finds the objection to be without merit, because the Order was not contrary to either opinion.

         The plaintiff quotes two passages (one from each case) in support of his argument. [R. 104 at 6] However, he applied the wrong parts of those cases. Both quotations concern interrogatories rather than requests for production. Yet, these cases also deal with parallel requests for production of training documents, and on these requests, both cases flatly contradict the plaintiff's position that he is entitled to these materials simply because they were used in training. In Mullins, the Court ruled that the defendant was required to produce training materials or quality review procedures only “to the extent that such training materials or quality review procedures were relied on” in the administration of the plaintiff's claim. Mullins, 267 F.R.D. at 520 (emphasis added). Likewise, in Myers, the court ruled that the defendant was “not required to respond as to any general training procedures” and that training materials and manuals were discoverable insofar as they were “utilized by the long term disability claims unit in processing [the plaintiff's] claim” but were not discoverable to the extent that they “were merely available to, but not utilized by, the claims unit in processing [the plaintiff's] case.” Myers, 316 F.R.D. at 206-07, 210 (emphasis added). As noted above, ...


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