Insurance Company Not Permitted to Challenge Discovery Ruling

On November 26, 2013, a commissioner appointed by the Court of Appeals found that an insurance company did not have the right to challenge a determination of a trial court that it must produce certain materials in discovery. In Belanich v. Employers’ Fire Ins. Co., Cause No. 12-2-14368-4 SEA, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector appointed Special Discovery Master Steve Scott to oversee discovery issues in the matter. In separate orders issued by Judge Spector on August 30th and September 20th, the insurance company was ordered to produce documents indicating the experience, education, employment history, resumes and curricula vitae of several individuals, along with other claim file materials. The insureds filed a motion for sanctions based on the insurance company’s failure to provide documents falling within Judge Spector’s discovery orders. As the appointed discovery master, Scott recommended granting the motion and found that the insurance company should have to pay monetary sanctions and attorney fees related to the discovery dispute.

The insurance company attempted to stay discovery while the issue was appealed to the Court of Appeals. A commission was appointed by the Court of Appeals to analyze the discovery dispute. One of the commissioners denied the insurance company’s request to review the trial court’s order because the insurance company could not establish that the order “substantially alters the status quo or limits its freedom to act.” In particular, the commission rejected the insurance company’s argument that disclosing personnel files would impinge on the employees’ privacy rights. The commission ordered the insurance company to produce a number of materials, including attorney-client communications under the Supreme Court’s decision from earlier this year in Cedell v. Farmers Ins. Co. v. Wash.

Coverage from Insurance Law360 can be found here and here.

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