On January 12, 2012, the court held a hearing on defendant's motion to compel. Denise Jarman and Joel Westbrook appeared for plaintiff. Leo Caseria appeared for defendant. Upon review of the motion and the documents in support and opposition, upon hearing the arguments of counsel and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:
RELEVANT PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This action was filed on February 7, 2011 and is proceeding on an April 7, 2011 first amended complaint alleging insurance bad faith and breach of contract. Plaintiff, the insured, alleges defendant, the insurer, failed to defend it per the terms of an insurance policy against seven suits ("the Moonlight Fire cases") filed against it and stemming from a September 2007 fire in Lassen County, California. Plaintiff seeks damages and declaratory relief. Defendant filed a counterclaim for breach of contract and declaratory relief.
On September 8, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Doc. Nos. 26-27. Both of these matters have been taken under submission by the Honorable Morrison C. England.
On August 1, 2011, defendant served plaintiff with its First Set of Discovery Requests (115 requests for production and 15 interrogatories) which sought, generally, facts and documents supporting plaintiff's claims. On August 24, 2011, defendant agreed to a 28-day extension of time for plaintiff to respond to the discovery requests. On October 4, 2011, plaintiff served its responses and asserted objections. According to defendant, plaintiff failed to produce a single document or substantive response. Plaintiff did, however, state that it would be willing provide documents and substantive responses pursuant to a protective order.
On October 11, 2011, the parties met and conferred regarding the entry of a protective order. On October 17, 2011, the parties signed and filed a stipulation ("the Stipulation") in which they agreed to work diligently on a protective order. Once the protective order was agreed to, the parties agreed to supplement their discovery responses within thirty days of the protective order's entry. On October 26, 2011, Judge England signed an order based upon this Stipulation.
The parties subsequently exchanged draft protective orders. Plaintiff's draft protective order included the following paragraph:
As to Class A information, the parties stipulate that plaintiff SPI may assert the right to refuse discovery relating to determination of an issue in this action which is an issue to be determined in the underlying action. Defendant American States may object to the designation of documents or information being so designated. In the event of this objection, plaintiff SPI will bring a motion for protective order or stay.
Defendant objected to this proposed protective order on the ground that it would effectively allow plaintiff to withhold discovery and thereby stay the case. Defendant further asserted that this proposed protective order is contrary to the purpose of the parties' Stipulation, which was "to facilitate the production of documents and information responsive to the parties' respective discovery requests." Defendant offered a compromise, which was the designation of certain documents as "Highly Confidential -- Attorneys' Eyes Only." Plaintiff rejected this offer.
On December 8, 2011, defendant filed a motion to produce documents and to provide substantive responses to interrogatories. On December 15, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion to stay, which is pending before the district judge. On December 19, 2011, defendant filed an amended motion seeking $6,510 for expenses.
B. The Parties' Positions
Defendant argues plaintiff has stalled discovery in this case for months with promises that discovery would be provided once a protective order was in place. Once the parties began to work on an agreeable protective order, it became evident to defendant that plaintiff did not want to produce documents at all. As previously noted, defendant argues that the purpose of the Stipulation and the entry of a protective order was to 'facilitate' discovery. Per defendant, plaintiff acted ...