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J&M Associates, Inc. v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh

March 4, 2008

J&M ASSOCIATES, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, ET DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jan M. Adler U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER: (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY RESPONSES [Doc. 76] AND (2) REQUIRING DEFENDANT TO PROVIDE AMENDED DISCOVERY RESPONSES AND REQUIRING IN PLAINTIFF'S "SUR-REPLY" [Doc. 85] PARTIES TO MEET AND CONFER REGARDING DISCOVERY ADDRESSED

Plaintiff J&M Associates, Inc. ("J&M") has filed a motion for an order compelling Defendant National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA ("National Union") to respond to various written discovery requests. National Union opposes. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART J&M's motion.

With respect to the discovery requests addressed in J&M's "Sur-Reply" and National Union's Response thereto, the Court ORDERS that National Union provide amended responses as set forth below and that counsel meet and confer concerning any remaining disputed issues.

BACKGROUND

The factual background of this case has previously been set forth in two comprehensive orders issued by District Judge Whelan Docs. 44 & 64) and need not be repeated here.

With respect to the instant dispute, in January 2007, J&M propounded requests for production of documents and special interrogatories upon National Union. National Union's responses to this discovery were postponed pending the outcome of the summary judgment motions filed before Judge Whelan. Following the denial of the summary judgment motions (Docs. 44 & 64), this Court convened a Case Management Conference and ordered that National Union's responses to the outstanding written discovery be provided by no later than November 30, 2007. Doc. 67. National Union served its discovery responses and objections on that date, and the parties were unable to resolve their disputes in subsequent meet and confer sessions. J&M now moves to compel responses to the following discovery requests: Requests for Production Nos. 3, 6, 11-13 and 21-24, and Special Interrogatory Nos. 5-11.

Currently pending before Judge Whelan is a motion by National Union seeking clarification of the September 18, 2007 Order Denying National Union's Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc.

LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Relevance

Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits discovery regarding "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Relevant information need not be admissible at trial so long as the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C), which provides in relevant part:

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, less burdensome, or less expensive;

(ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or

(iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). It is within the authority of the court to define the actual scope of discovery to the reasonable needs of the action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 Advisory Committee Notes, 2000 Amendment.

DISCUSSION

National Union argues, as an initial matter, that the scope of discovery available to J&M is limited as a result of the summary judgment rulings previously issued by Judge Whelan. The Court, after carefully considering Judge Whelan's orders, disagrees. As set forth above, discovery may be obtained regarding "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Because, as set forth below, all claims alleged in J&M's Second Amended Complaint remain viable, J&M may properly seek any information relevant to these claims.

National Union argues that the effect of Judge Whelan's orders is to narrowly limit discovery to matters pertaining to the interpretation of the J&M-NASSCO*fn1 contract. Nat'l Union's Opp'n at 1. The Court disagrees. While the determination of coverage may ultimately turn on the interpretation of the J&MNASSCO contract, the net effect of Judge Whelan's orders is that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether there is a potential for coverage and, therefore, whether National Union had a duty to defend NASSCO in the underlying Melendez action. Because the potential for coverage under the policy has not been foreclosed, each of Plaintiff's claims -- including its claim for bad faith -- remains pending. Absent a contrary ruling on the motion for clarification, then, the Court finds that Judge Whelan's summary judgment orders in no way constrain or limit J&M's ability to conduct discovery in this case.*fn2

The discovery which J&M presently seeks from National Union comprises three general categories of information: (1) the Varis Brown claim, (2) other claims made by other insureds and (3) National Union's allocation of defense ...


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