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Allstate Insurance Company v. David Wang


March 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Howard R. Lloyd United States Magistrate Judge


United States District Court For the Northern District of California

[Re: Docket No. 20]



Pursuant to this Court's diversity jurisdiction, Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") filed this declaratory judgment action against three defendants: (1) Shunk Hueng Wang ("Ms. Wang"); (2) Jie Hang Zhao ("Zhao"); and (3) Chuck Chiang ("Chiang").*fn1 Docket No. 1 ("Complaint"). These 20 three defendants, plus Ms. Wang's son David Wang ("David"), are embroiled in an underlying tort action in California state court (the "Underlying Tort Action"). In that action, Zhao and Chiang, who are the plaintiffs there, allege that Ms. Wang and David are responsible for injuries they sustained in relation to a January 2, 2010 automobile accident. See Complaint, Ex. A ("Underlying Tort Complaint"). Pursuant to David's automobile and personal umbrella insurance policies with Docket No. 22 ("Jordan Decl.") ¶ 6. indemnify Ms. Wang in the Underlying Tort Action because she is not an "insured person" under David's umbrella policy. Complaint ¶¶ 16-21. So far, and despite its counsel's efforts, Allstate has 6 not been able to locate and serve Ms. Wang, who Allstate believes is a resident of France. Docket No. 20 ("MTC") at 4-5 (citing Docket No. 23 ("Barnes Decl.") ¶¶ 2-13). Its previous efforts 8 fruitless, Allstate sought to obtain her location from David through two subpoenas: the first required Allstate, Allstate has agreed to defend both Ms. Wang and David in the Underlying Tort Action.*fn2

In this federal action, Allstate seeks a declaratory judgment that it owes no duty to defend or David to produce documents related to Ms. Wang's location by January 20, 2011, and the second required David to appear for deposition on February 3, 2011.*fn3 Barnes Decl, Exs. J (the "Document Subpoena"), K (the "Deposition Subpoena").

David did neither. Instead, on January 18, 2011, David and Ms. Wang filed their own suit against Allstate (and other defendants) in state court in which they allege that Ms. Wang is entitled to coverage under David's insurance policies. See Wang, et al. v. Allstate Ins. Co., et al., No. 1-11-15 cv-191982, Santa Clara County Superior Court (filed January 18, 2011). This new suit, they claimed in a letter to Allstate sent the next day, rendered Allstate's subpoenas to David in this action moot, so he did not produce any documents or appear for deposition. Barnes Decl., Ex. L; see also id., Exs.

Allstate now moves for an order compelling David to comply with the subpoenas it served on him. See MTC. David opposed the motion. Docket No. 27 ("Opp'n"). Pursuant to Civil Local April 5, 2011 hearing is vacated.

United States District Court For the Northern District of California

M, N.

Rule 7-1(b), the Court finds the matter suitable for determination without oral argument, and the commanding a non-party to attend and testify; produce designated documents, electronically stored 4 information, or tangible things in that non-party's possession, custody or control; or permit the 5 inspection of premises. FED. R. CIV. P. 45(a)(1)(A)(iii). The scope of discovery through a Rule 45 6 subpoena is the same as that applicable to the other discovery rules. FED. R. CIV. P. 45 advisory committee's note (1970).

to any party's claim or defense. FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). "Relevance under Rule 26(b)(1) is 10 construed more broadly for discovery than for trial." Truswal Sys. Corp. v. Hydro-Air Eng'g, Inc., 813 F.2d 1207, 1211 (Fed. Cir. 1987). "Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." FED.

R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). Discovery is not unfettered, however. A court must limit the extent or frequency 14 of discovery if it finds that: (a) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative or 15 can be obtained from a source that is more convenient, less burdensome or less expensive; (b) the 16 party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information through discovery; or (c) the burden or expense of the discovery sought outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs 18 of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake, 19 and the importance of the discovery in resolving those issues. FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(i)-(iii).

David was properly served with Allstate's subpoenas, and he has cited no legal authority for why he should not comply with them. Rather, David presents several practical reasons for why he should not have to do so. been stayed in David and Ms. Wang's new state court suit pending a full hearing on Allstate's 26 motion to stay that case. See Docket No. 34 ("Martin Decl.") ¶ 6. Second, Allstate's subpoenas were 27 timely served and their compliance dates were well within the fact discovery cutoff (July 25, 2011) 28 set by Judge Ware in his scheduling order (Docket No. 16); Allstate did not fail to act diligently.


Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the issuance of a subpoena In that regard, parties may obtain discovery about any non-privileged.


His reasons are not compelling. First, Allstate's subpoenas are not "moot," as discovery has David contends. Third, David's objections to the document subpoena - contained in a January 20, 2011 letter from his counsel to Allstate's counsel (Barnes Decl., Ex. M) but not mentioned in his 3 opposition brief at all - are all boilerplate, unsupported, and/or groundless.*fn4 Since David has failed 4 to provide any viable reason for why he should not comply with the subpoenas, this Court will grant In a supplemental brief, filed without prior approval of this Court, David also makes two requests: (1) that this Court stay this action pending resolution of the Underlying Tort Action; and Allstate's motion. (2) should this Court require that his deposition proceed, that this Court limit the scope of his 9 deposition to the topic of whether Ms. Wang was a member of his household for purposes of 10 insurance coverage and prevent Allstate from questioning him about Ms. Wang's whereabouts.

Docket No. 35 at 3-4. This Court refuses both of his requests. As for the first one, David has not directed his request to the proper decision-maker; it is for Judge Ware, as presiding judge, to decide 13 whether to stay this action. And as for the second, Ms. Wang's location is relevant to this action and Allstate has sufficiently demonstrated that, despite its efforts, it has been unable to locate through 15 other means. 16 17

United States District Court For the Northern District of California


Based on the foregoing, Allstate's motion is GRANTED. Wang shall respond to Allstate's document subpoena within 7 days from the date of this order. Wang also shall appear for his 4 deposition within 21 days from the date of this order.*fn5


United States District Court For the Northern District of California

C10-03459 JW (HRL) Notice will be electronically mailed to: Aslan Bananzadeh, Christopher William Wood, Emily S. Nozick, 4 Michael A. Barnes,,, Stanley Edward Pond Counsel are responsible for distributing copies of this document to co-counsel who have not registered for e-filing under the court's CM/ECF program.

United States District Court For the Northern District of California

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