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McDride v. Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 24, 2014

James McBride, Plaintiff,
v.
Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation et al., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

We consider here three motions by Defendant Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation ("Defendant") to compel discovery responses and/or strike objections by Plaintiff James McBride ("Plaintiff") to various subpoenas that Defendant had issued to third parties. These motions (Doc. 17, 19, and 21) had been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. We shall consider them in their order on the docket.

I. Background.

This case arises from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on December 17, 2012 in Brooklyn, New York. The Plaintiff alleges that he suffered physical injuries that required medical treatment when the vehicle he was operating was struck from the rear.

On the date the accident occurred, Plaintiff was a covered person pursuant to an automobile insurance policy issued by the Defendant on June 23, 2012. Pursuant to that policy, Plaintiff had coverage for first party medical expenses in the amount of $5, 000.00. When Plaintiff made a claim for payment in that amount to defray the cost of medical treatment allegedly received in connection with the accident, Defendant declined to render payment.

Defendant's basis for refusing to extend the coverage provided by its policy is its conviction that Plaintiff misrepresented his state of domicile at the time he made his application for insurance. Plaintiff had represented on his application that he was a Pennsylvania resident living in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Defendant contends that its investigation reveals that Plaintiff was actually a resident of New York at the time he purchased the policy in question. This, Defendant contends, was a material misrepresentation that exonerates it from its obligation to provide the first party medical benefits which are the bone of contention here.

Plaintiff filed suit in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas seeking recovery of first party medical benefits under the insurance contract and damages pursuant to the Pennsylvania Bad Faith Statute. Defendant, an Alabama corporation, then removed the case to this Court.

II. Legal Standard.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 (b)(1) provides in relevant part:
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter.... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Rule 26 establishes a liberal discovery policy, Great West Life Assurance Co. v. Levithan , 152 F.R.D. 494, 497 (E.D.Pa. 1994). Discovery is generally permitted of any items that are relevant or may lead to the discovery of relevant information. Hicks v. Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America , 168 F.R.D. 528, 529 (E.D.Pa. 1996); Stabilus v. Haynsworth, Baldwin, Johnson, and Greaves, P.A. , 144 F.R.D. 258, 265-66 (E.D.Pa. 1992)(when there is no doubt about relevance a court should tend toward permitting discovery). Moreover, discovery need not be confined to items of admissible evidence but may encompass that which appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Callahan v. A.E.D., Inc. 947 F.Supp. 175 , 177 (W.D.Pa. 1996); Momah v. Albert Einstein Medical Center , 164 F.R.D. 412, 417 (E.D.Pa. 1996).

Although "the scope of relevance in discovery is far broader than that allowed for evidentiary purposes, it is not without its limits." Stabilus , 144 F.R.D. at 265. The Court will not permit discovery where a request is made in bad faith, unduly burdensome, irrelevant to the general subject matter of the action, or relating to confidential or privileged information. S.S. Fretz, Jr., Inc. v. White Consolidated Industries, Inc., No. 90-1731 , 1991 W.L. 21655, at 2 (E.D.Pa. Feb. 15, 1991).

The burden is on the objecting party to demonstrate in specific terms why a discovery request is improper. Hicks , 168 F.R.D. at 529; Goodman v. Wagner , 553 F.Supp. 255, 258 (E.D.Pa. 1982). The party objecting to discovery must show that the requested materials do not fall "within the broad scope of relevance...or else are of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption ...


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