Archive for the 'NJ – Procedural Issues' Category

IMPLIED COVENANT OF GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING COUNT DUPLICATIVE OF BREACH OF CONTRACT COUNT; NO CFA CLAIM FOR BENEFIT DENIAL (New Jersey Federal)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In this property damage insurance coverage case, the insured brought claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and Consumer Fraud Act claims.  The insured apparently did not bring a claim framed as insurance “bad faith”.  Thus, the court analyzed the complaint solely under cases generally concerning the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and not under insurance bad faith case law.

Good Faith and Fair Dealing Count Redundant

The court found the same allegations made in both the breach of contract count and the good faith and fair dealing count.  District Judge Martinotti dismissed the good faith and fair dealing count “[b]ecause Plaintiff’s claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing is duplicative of his breach of contract claim….”

It is interesting to compare this case to Judge Hillman’s September 1, 2021 801 Asbury Avenue opinion, summarized here, where he dismissed the covenant of good faith and fair dealing count as duplicative, but found a separate insurance bad faith claim adequately pleaded.

No Consumer Fraud Act Claim for Benefit Denial Only

The court then dismissed the insured’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) claim because the CFA does not apply to denial of insurance benefits. “Since Plaintiff is seeking damages under the CFA arising from [a] denial of Plaintiff’s appraisal benefit … the CFA is not applicable.” Even if applicable, the insured failed to plead the elements of a CFA action.

Date of Decision:  September 24, 2021

Fox v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, U.S. District Court District of New Jersey No. 2:20CV18131BRMESK, 2021 WL 4398740 (D.N.J. Sept. 24, 2021) (Martinotti, J.)

COURT REJECTS BELATED EFFORT TO AMEND COMPLAINT TO ADD BAD FAITH CLAIM (New Jersey Federal)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Similar to the Pennsylvania Superior Court case summarized last Friday, New Jersey District Court Judge Waldor rejected the plaintiff insured’s effort to belatedly amend the complaint to include a New Jersey bad faith insurance claim, and a claim under the Consumer Fraud Act.

The plaintiff insured failed to seek amendment within the time set by the court’s scheduling order.  The alleged facts plaintiff relied on in moving to amend were already alleged or known before the deadline. Thus, plaintiff could neither show a good faith reason for failing to meet the deadline, nor the reasonable diligence needed to extend the deadline for amending his complaint.

Date of Decision: February 25, 2021

Arzadi v. Evanston Insurance Company, U.S. District Court District of New Jersey No. 2:17CV5470 SDWCLW, 2021 WL 753970 (D.N.J. Feb. 25, 2021) (Waldor, J.)

 

NO BAD FAITH IN BRINGING INTERPLEADER ACTION (New Jersey Federal)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The husband-beneficiary of his wife’s life insurance policy brought breach of contract, bad faith, and unfair trade practices counterclaims against an insurer for interpleading the policy proceeds into court.  The couple’s children were contingent beneficiaries on the policy.

The insured had died in unclear circumstances. She either was murdered or committed suicide (the central dispute being whether she did or could have stabbed herself 47 times while being intoxicated on oxycodone).  For a time the husband had been charged with murder, and was incarcerated.  The criminal case, however, was eventually dismissed, and the husband released.  The prosecutors, however, did not conclude the husband was innocent, instead stating that there was insufficient evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt and that they could not morally continue the prosecution. The charges were dismissed, but without prejudice.

The court held the insurer “properly invoked the interpleader device, due to a legitimate fear of multiple liability under the Slayer Statute.”  The court stated, “it takes little examination of the facts to see that they could support competing, colorable claims to the benefits.” The court found it clear the insurer faced a decision that was far from ordinary.

“Although the record is only minimally developed, the evidence thus far suggests two starkly divergent paths: the Insured either died from extreme Oxycodone use, which allowed her to self-inflict forty-seven stab wounds, or was killed by [her husband]. Factually, it is also undisputed that [he] was at home alone with the Insured when she died, touched the weapon used to stab her, and was found with blood on his hands. … Therefore, ‘[e]ven though no other claims have been made on the insurance,’ potential colorable claims exist. … In a case with such gruesome facts and conflicting narratives, [the insurer] seems entitled to invoke interpleader.”

The court next found that the insurer did not bear any responsibility “for the existence of the ownership controversy.” Nor did the insurer’s decision to interplead result from its own failure to resolve the dispute between potential claimants. The husband did not allege “any plausible facts that suggest a ‘bad faith’ motivation, besides [the insurer’s] legitimate concern for avoiding multiple liability.” He was simply claiming bad faith on the basis the carrier filed an interpleader action instead of paying him the policy proceeds.

Thus, interpleader was proper and all claims against the carrier were dismissed.

Date of Decision:  January 7, 2021

Prudential Insurance Company of America v. Ianetti, U.S. District Court District of New Jersey No. 19-21849 (SDW) (LDW), 2021 WL 71593 (D.N.J. Jan. 7, 2021) (Wigenton, J.)

INSUREDS HAD ONGOING DUTY TO COOPERATE, AND TO PROVIDE DOCUMENTS AND SUBMIT TO EXAMINATION UNDER OATH IN THIRD PARTY CASE, EVEN AFTER SETTLEMENT (New Jersey Federal)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The insureds were attorneys sued by an insurance carrier. The insured attorneys sought coverage from their own professional liability carrier, and the malpractice carrier asserted no coverage was due. The attorneys/insureds and the professional liability carrier each sought a declaration in their favor on coverage.

The insureds won an early summary judgment ruling form a magistrate judge that the professional liability carrier had a duty to defend. The magistrate judge denied the professional liability carrier reconsideration and permission to take an interlocutory appeal.  She did not rule on any indemnification responsibility, as the underlying suit against the attorneys remained pending.

The professional liability insurer still wanted to take an examination under oath, and the insured responded by seeking a protective order.  Initially, the magistrate judge administratively terminated the case, pending the outcome of the underlying action.

Issues arose concerning the insured’s cooperation in connection with defending the underlying suit.  The magistrate judge reopened the case, ruling that an examination under oath should go forward, that the insureds had a duty to cooperate under the professional liability policy, and that the insureds were not entitled to defense costs during periods of non-cooperation.

The present decision involves an appeal to the District Court from the magistrate judge’s order.

The magistrate judge found the insureds had failed to cooperate by delaying the examination under oath, failed to respond to the professional liability carrier’s offer of defense, and failed to respond to a request for information. She held that although the insureds did not act in bad faith, their actions did appreciably prejudice the malpractice carrier.

On appeal, the District Court agreed that there had been a failure to cooperate, but this failure was not the result of bad faith. The District Court reversed, however, on the issue of appreciable prejudice, finding none. Most important, the insurer had not “irretrievably lost the opportunity to take [an examination under oath]….” Nor was the carrier “precluded from discovering facts that may weigh against coverage under the Policy.”

The District Court agreed with the magistrate judge that there was no appreciable prejudice due to the insured’s refusal to respond concerning the carrier’s providing a defense, stating: “Irrespective of whether Plaintiffs accepted or rejected the defense offer before the [underlying] suit settlement, the only issue remaining post settlement pertains to indemnification. … Thus, there can be no appreciable prejudice … for its inability to defend the [underlying] suit before it settled. Any dispute regarding Plaintiffs’ alleged failure to provide information, including defense costs, may be addressed when the indemnification issue is decided. Accordingly, because [the professional liability carrier] failed to demonstrate appreciable prejudice, it cannot disclaim coverage for Plaintiffs’ noncooperation under the Policy.”

The District Court affirmed the magistrate’s ruling that there was no defect in the malpractice carrier’s reservation of rights.

Likewise, the District Court upheld the magistrate’s decision that the carrier was entitled to the examination under oath, and finding a failure to cooperate. First, the right to take the examination had not been waived. Nor was the request for the examination unreasonable or unfair: “For the reasons already stated, [the] ROR was proper after this Court determined that [the underlying] suit triggered a duty to defend and reserved on the issue of indemnification. It would defy logic to find that [the professional liability carrier] has a duty to defend and properly reserved its rights as to liability yet preclude an EUO to investigate the underlying claims pursuant to the Policy.”

Finally, simply settling the case did not end the insured’s obligations to cooperate under the policy, which expressly provided the insurer with the right to take an examination under oath.

Date of Decision:  September 23, 2020

Karzadi, v. Evanston Insurance Company, U.S. District Court District of New Jersey No. 17-5470 SDWCLW, 2020 WL 5652442 (D.N.J. Sept. 23, 2020) (Wigenton, J.)

TRIAL COURT ERRED GRANTING JUDGMENT ON FRAUD CLAIM TO VOID THE POLICY AT THE END OF PLAINTIFF’S CASE (New Jersey Appellate Division)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This case focuses on procedural issues and burdens of proof at trial, concerning whether the insured’s alleged fraud during an investigation was grounds to void a policy. At trial, the insured put on her case, and the carrier moved for involuntary dismissal (directed verdict) at the end of plaintiff’s case. The trial court granted judgment to the insurer, and the Appellate Division reversed.

The insured’s claim revolved around a fire loss. In the years before that loss, the insured had a relatively small roof claim, and a large water damage claim. During her testimony at trial, the insured described a meeting with the carrier’s investigator during the fire loss claim. The investigator was not merely a claim adjuster, but was actually a fraud unit investigator – unknown to the insured.

The insured admitted she denied there was any prior damage claim on the water loss, knowing this was not true. She felt it was not the investigator’s business and had nothing to do with the fire loss. The investigator had the insured’s application, which did not include either prior loss. This was part of the investigation, again unknown to the insured. The application itself, however, was never introduced into evidence at trial.

This interview during the claim process was not taken under oath. At her subsequent examination under oath, the insured did admit the two prior loss claims.

Both courts’ focus was on the misleading statement to the investigator about the water damage claim, rather than on the application’s not including the two losses. The two key elements were misrepresentation and materiality. The trial court found a material misrepresentation and voided the policy after plaintiff put on her case.

The Appellate Division disagreed, looking closely at the procedural setting and burdens of proof, in finding that the materiality element was not proved. The court especially noted the different burdens placed on defendant when dismissal is sought at the end of plaintiff’s case, rather than at the end of all parties’ cases.

Plaintiff’s case-in-chief did not include the original application, and the Appellate Division found there was insufficient evidence within plaintiff’s case itself to demonstrate how the water loss was relevant to the fire loss claim, or important in determining the insurer’s course of action. Moreover, the misrepresentation claim was an affirmative defense, with the insurer bearing the burden of proof. As the court stated:

“Accordingly, regardless of whether the information in an application not introduced at trial came from plaintiff or someone else, there was no factual basis for the [trial] judge to find that [the insured] ‘clearly tried to mislead [the investigator] as to something that seemed to justify what looked like misstatements in the application.’ Without the original insurance application or testimony from anyone at [the insurer] as to the nature of the investigation, the trial court clearly erred when it involuntary dismissed [the] suit based on her willful misrepresentation of material facts following her fire loss.”

Finally, the court observed that even though its ruling was based on a fundamental failure to prove materiality in the procedural circumstances at trial below, the insured would not be precluded from arguing at re-trial “a fact-finder could also consider whether [she] corrected her misstatements promptly in her examination under oath in considering their materiality.” July 30, 2019

Pokhan v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division DOCKET NO. A-3336-17T3, 2019 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1699, 2019 WL 3425917 (App. Div. July 30, 2019) (Accurso, Fuentes, JJ.)

OCTOBER 2018 BAD FAITH CASES: BIFURCATION OF BAD FAITH COUNT DENIED UNDER FEDERAL RULES WHERE CASE WAS OVER TWO YEARS OLD, ISSUES WOULD NOT BE DECIDED ON THE PLEADINGS, AND ADDITIONAL DISCOVERY REQUIRED TO MOVE TO NEXT STAGE OF LITIGATION (New Jersey Federal)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In this complex federal case, the carrier sought to bifurcate trial and discovery on coverage and bad faith, asking the court to hold discovery in abeyance pending the coverage determination. The court declined.

“In determining whether bifurcation under Rule 42(b) is proper, ‘courts should consider whether bifurcation will avoid prejudice, conserve judicial resources, and enhance juror comprehension of the issues presented in the case.’” Applying this standard, the court found that “such considerations are not advanced by bifurcation, as this case: (1) was filed over two-and-a-half years ago; (2) will not be disposed of on the pleadings…; and (3) requires additional discovery to move on to the next stage of the litigation.”

The court found it exceedingly clear that this procedurally and substantively complex case was not going to be simplified or expedited “by holding bad faith discovery in abeyance pending a determination of coverage….” The court relied upon Magistrate Judge Clark’s opinion in National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Becton, observing, “bifurcation of coverage and bad faith claims was not appropriate where case was pending for over three years, the case would not be disposed of on the pleadings, and discovery remained.”

Date of Decision: October 2, 2018

Ventrice v. Lexington Insurance Co., U.S. District Court District of New Jersey Civil Action No.: 2:16-cv-00660, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 169789 (D.N.J. Oct. 2, 2018) (Cecchi, J.)

AUGUST 2018 BAD FAITH CASES: OVERVIEW OF NEW JERSEY STANDARDS ON FAILURE TO SETTLE BAD FAITH AND FAIRLY DEBATABLE STANDARD; REQUIREMENT OF EXPERT TESTIMONY ON BAD FAITH; INSURED’S SETTLEMENT CONDUCT WHERE INSURER HAS DECLINED COVERAGE; SEVERANCE OF BAD FAITH CLAIMS (New Jersey Appellate Division) (Unpublished)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This case addresses a wide array of New Jersey bad faith issues. The underlying facts involve disputed coverage and defense obligations in a suit against the insured based on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The insurer withdrew its defense based on trial court finding no coverage, which was later reversed on appeal

The insurer had been defending under a reservation of rights, but withdrew the defense when the trial court ruled no coverage was due. The underlying case proceeded. A $19 million judgment was entered on an unopposed summary judgment motion against the insured.

Subsequently, the appellate division reversed the trial court’s coverage ruling, and remanded to explore further factual issues before determining the coverage question.

The insured assigned it claims to the underlying plaintiffs, who counterclaimed for bad faith and failure to settle within policy limits, and who also intervened in the coverage dispute again alleging bad faith. Before reaching a jury in the declaratory judgment action, the court dismissed the bad faith claims “except for the count in its counterclaim that alleged [the insurer] acted in bad faith by failing to settle the underlying action at a time when it controlled that litigation and could have settled the claim within …  policy limits.”

The jury found for the insured on coverage, and the court further awarded attorney’s fees under R. 4:42-9(a)(6). The total award exceeded $5 million.

On appeal, the court went through the relevant policy language and exclusions in great detail. Among other issues addressed, it found the verdict should have been reversed on the issue of what constituted “property damage,” with a single exception, that was also the sole actionable occurrence. Thus, the judgment was significantly undermined on appeal.

Bad faith issues

The court then addressed a variety of bad faith issues. This was triggered by the insurer’s late effort on the eve of trial to renew an attempt to dismiss the bad faith failure to settle claims for failure to bring forth expert testimony to support the failure to settle claim.

The insured “objected to the untimeliness of the motion and requested an adjournment if the court was inclined to dismiss for lack of an expert.” The judge found that there was no actionable bad faith claim under the “fairly debatable standard”, and that the insured had failed to negotiate a reasonable settlement once the defense was withdrawn.

“Alternatively, the judge found that any assessment of [the insurer’s] conduct in this complex case was beyond the ken of the average juror and dismissed the bad faith failure to settle claim because [the insured] had no expert. Noting the case management order required [the insured] to furnish an expert report nearly one year earlier, she denied any adjournment and dismissed the bad faith failure to settle counterclaim.”

The Appellate Division agreed an expert was necessary, but reversed the trial court’s ruling. It found that the motion in limine was functionally a summary judgment motion that was untimely and prejudicial.

The Court then addressed the nature of New Jersey bad faith claims, and the standards applicable in first and third party contexts.

Standards for failure to settle within policy limits

The failure to settle a third party claim within policy limits is governed by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Rova Farms decision. Because the insurer controls the settlement, it has a fiduciary obligation to exercise good faith in considering settlement. The decision not to settle within policy limits “must be a thoroughly honest, intelligent and objective” decision.

“It must be a realistic one when tested by the necessarily assumed expertise of the company. This expertise must be applied, in a given case, to a consideration of all the factors bearing upon the advisability of a settlement for the protection of the insured. While the view of the carrier or its attorney as to liability is one important factor, a good faith evaluation requires more. It includes consideration of the anticipated range of a verdict, should it be adverse; the strengths and weaknesses of all of the evidence to be presented on either side so far as known; the history of the particular geographic area in cases of similar nature; and the relative appearance, persuasiveness, and likely appeal of the claimant, the insured, and the witnesses at trial.”

Expert needed on bad faith claim to assist jury

Rejecting a settlement by itself does not constitute bad faith. There must be “an assessment of the reasonableness of an insurer’s settlement negotiations in the underlying action” and this assessment “will likely hinge upon the credibility of fact witnesses, as well as expert testimony as to what went wrong on the settlement front and why.”

In this case, the factors were varied and complicated, and expert testimony was necessary to assist the jury in making a bad faith decision under Rova Farms and its progeny. Thus, the trial court was right on the issue that an expert was needed.

Some advice of how to handle late raised issues that will be allowed to go to trial, and the ability to sever bad faith claims

In reversing the dismissal, the appellate judges gave some practical advice to trial courts under these circumstances. Either the trial court have been adjourned to allow time to obtain the expert testimony and response, or the bad faith claim could have been severed and tried after the coverage case. The case was remanded for the trial judge to address the bad faith claim.

Some advice of using “fairly debatable” standard (Pickett) in failure to settle cases (Rova Farms)

The appellate judges then stated they would not address the issue of whether the trial judge’s fairly debatable ruling as a basis for dismissal was proper. The court then went on to discuss the interplay of Rova Farms and the Pickett fairly debatable standard at some length. It observed that the fairly debatable standard arose in the first party context, and that Rova Farms addressed failure to settle third party claims.

The Appellate Division had previously ruled that the fiduciary duty implicated in the third party failure to settle context does not exist in the first party context. However, another Appellate Division panel had ruled that the fairly debatable standard did apply in third party coverage cases (as differentiated from failure to settle cases). Thus, “[n]o reported New Jersey decision has addressed whether Pickett‘s ‘reasonably debatable’ standard applies to an insured’s bad faith refusal to settle claim.”

The Third Circuit has addressed the issue, and found that the Rova Farms’ standards, rather than the Pickett fairly debatable standards should control third party failure to settle claims.

“Whether [the insured] would be held liable for [the third-party’s] injuries was “fairly debatable,” but in the context of a third-party claim with a possibility of an excess verdict, Pickett supplies only part of the equation. The “fairly debatable” standard is analogous to the probability liability will attach in a third-party claim, but it does not consider the likelihood of an excess verdict.

A third-party claim that may exceed the policy limit creates a conflict of interest in that the limit can embolden the insurer to contest liability while the insured is indifferent to any settlement within the limit. This conflict is not implicated when the insured is a first-party beneficiary, where the claimant and the insurer are in an adversarial posture and the possibility of an excess verdict is absent.

Rova Farms, not Pickett, protects insureds who are relegated to the sidelines in third-party litigation from the danger that insurers will not internalize the full expected value of a claim due to a policy cap.”

The present panel chose to decide the issue, though (no pun intended), it acknowledged “the appeal of the Third Circuit’s rationale. An insurer who, while exclusively controlling the litigation, acts in bad faith and refuses to settle a third-party claim within its insured’s policy limits exposes the insured to personal liability. The situation therefore presents different concerns from those posed by a suit where the insurer acts in bad faith and wrongfully denies contractual benefits to the insured under its policy of insurance.”

Failure to negotiate a settlement after coverage denial may not preclude a later bad faith claim

Finally, the panel rejected the trial court’s finding that the insured’s failure to negotiate a settlement once coverage was denied precluded the possibility of a later bad faith claim.

The court looked generally to case law concerning insured’s conduct in settling, or not settling, cases where the insurer has declined involvement on the basis it does not believe coverage is due. Insured are not required as a matter of law to settle at their own expense. Rather, “under certain circumstances, insureds could do so without violating policy terms where there has been a breach by the insurer.”

In sum, the panel reversed the bad faith claim dismissal and remanded the matter to proceed on the bad faith claim.

Date of Decision: July 31, 2018

Penn National Insurance Co. v. Group C Communications, Inc., New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, DOCKET NOS. A-0754-15T1 A-0808-15T1, 2018 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1833 (N.J. App. Div. July 31, 2018) (O’Connor, Messano and Vernoia, JJ.)

 

MAY 2018 BAD FAITH CASES: BAD FAITH CLAIM SEVERED AND STAYED; SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON CONTRACT CLAIM REVERSED WHERE JUDGE FAILED TO MAKE FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW (Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In this Hurricane Sandy related litigation, the insured brought claims for breach of contract and bad faith after the insurer denied coverage under a homeowner’s insurance policy pursuant to a surface water exclusion. The trial court severed and stayed the bad faith claim, and both parties moved for summary judgment on the breach of contract claim. The judge presiding over the motion proceeding granted summary judgment in favor of insurer, and denied the insured’s cross-motion for summary judgment “for the reasons set forth in [insurer’s] motion papers.” The motion judge “failed to make any findings of facts or reach any conclusions of law, as mandated by [New Jersey Rule of Court] 1:7-4(a).” The Appellate Division reversed and remanded, reasoning that “[a] trial judge is obliged to set forth factual findings and correlate them to legal conclusions[]” in accordance with the New Jersey Rules of Court.

Date of Decision: May 1, 2018

Estate of Doerfler v. Federal Insurance Co., Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-3353-15T2, 2018 N.J. Super. LEXIS 69 (N.J. App. Div. May 1, 2018) (Fuentes, Manahan, and Suter, JJ.)

 

 

APRIL 2018 BAD FAITH CASES: LEAVE TO AMEND AND ADD BAD FAITH CLAIM DENIED WHEN INSURED FAILED TO SHOW GOOD CAUSE AND AMENDMENT WOULD BE FUTILE (New Jersey Federal)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The insured submitted a claim for property damage and business-income loss after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Towards the end of the claim evaluation process, the insured sued for breach of contract. Roughly two years after filing its complaint, the insured moved for leave to amend, seeking to add a bad faith claim.

The Court ruled that the insured failed to demonstrate good cause to show it was entitled to amendment beyond the Court’s amendment deadline. Under the federal rules, parties must act diligently, and the insured failed to timely add the bad faith claim upon allegedly learning of new information.

In addition, the Court found that granting the motion to add a bad faith claim would be futile. New Jersey bad faith claims are subject to the “fairly debatable” standard, i.e., “if a claim is ‘fairly debatable,’ no liability in tort will arise.” Under that standard, a bad faith plaintiff must be able to establish bad faith on summary judgment as a matter of law. The Court ruled that because there was uncertainty with the material facts surrounding the claim, summary judgment would be precluded as a matter of law. Thus, the bad faith claim was futile, and the Court denied the insured’s motion to amend.

Date of Decision: April 20, 2018

Lasermaster International Inc. v. Netherlands Insurance Co., United States District Court, District of New Jersey, Civil Action No. 15-7614 (CCC), 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66520 (D.N.J. Apr. 20, 2018) (Clark, III, M.J.)

 

 

APRIL 2018 BAD FAITH CASES: INSURER FAILS TO (1) MEET ITS BURDEN OF SHOWING THAT PRIVILEGED INFORMATION SOUGHT IS MATERIAL AND (2) THAT BIFURCATION OF BAD FAITH CLAIM WOULD SERVE JUDICIAL ECONOMY (New Jersey Federal)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In this complex coverage dispute, the insurer appealed two magistrate judge’s decisions to the district judge: (1) a 2017 opinion and order denying insurer’s motion to compel the insured’s production of privileged documents concerning the underlying lawsuits and settlements; and (2) a 2018 opinion and order denying the insurer’s motion to bifurcate and stay discovery regarding the insured’s bad faith counterclaim. The underlying litigation concerned occurrence-based policies that provided coverage for over two decades, and whether insurer has a duty of coverage regarding several class-actions and anti-trust actions brought against the insured after the policy period.

In affirming the magistrate’s 2017 order, the court held that the insurer failed to show how the privileged information was both relevant and material, and failed to show how it could not obtain this information through less intrusive means.

Regarding the 2018 bifurcation order, the insurer argued that “under New Jersey law ‘a policyholder should not be permitted to engage in discovery related to a bad faith claim until such time as it has established as a matter of law that it was entitled to coverage.’” The court rejected this argument, under Federal Rule 42 which governed in this federal action. The district judge held that the insurer failed to meet its burden of showing that bifurcating the bad faith claim would serve judicial economy and not prejudice the parties.

Date of Decision: April 12, 2018

Travelers Casualty & Surery Co. v. Becton Dickinson & Co., United States District Court, District of New Jersey, Civil Action No. 14-4410 (JMV), 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61853 (D.N.J. Apr. 12, 2018) (Vazquez, J.)