NOVEMBER 2015 BAD FAITH CASES: COURT WOULD NOT ASSUME INSURER WAS WITHHOLDING DOCUMENTS, AND WOULD NOT REQUIRE DISCLOSURE OF UNRELATED MATTERS REDACTED FROM CLAIM FILE PRODUCTION (Philadelphia Federal)

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In Quinn v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company, the insured brought breach of contract and bad faith claims based on a fire loss.  The insurer provided redacted documents from its claim files in discovery, and the insured moved to strike the redactions.  The insurer did not keep hard copies of documents, but only electronic files, and could not guaranty that the electronic files included copies of all documents that had existed in paper form, but which were no longer kept. The insured also moved to compel copies of any missing documents that had not been produced.  The court denied the insured’s motion on all grounds.

First, there was no evidence of intentional or bad faith destruction of documents or that any documents were in fact missing; so the court could not compel production of documents that may have existed, but which had not been produced.  In this section of its opinion, the court also rejected the insured’s argument to bar the claims adjuster from testifying about matters not in the physical claims filed, fearing that the adjuster would fill in redacted information from memory.  The court rejected that argument as having no basis in the law or discovery rules.

As to the redactions, the court would not strike redactions to items concerning matters occurring two years before the incident at issue, as there was no showing of relevance.  Nor would it strike redactions concerning third party liability claims, being likewise irrelevant to the case at hand.

Next, the court observed that it could not rule on striking redactions based on the condition of the document, when the plaintiff had not attached the document for the court’s review.

The insurer apparently produced unrelated photographs with the claims file, and the insured argued that related photographs had been redacted, and should be produced.  However, there was nothing to establish that there were related photographs which had been withheld or redacted, and that part of the motion was denied as well.

Similarly, the court would not require production of unredacted sections of production concerning “scope of loss” where the insured did not point to specific redactions allegedly made on this topic, or where relevant additional information was missing. The court observed: “I cannot compel defendant to produce unidentifiable unredacted documents or entries.”

Date of Decision:  October 6, 2015

Quinn v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-4281, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135984 (E.D. Pa. October 6, 2015) (O’Neill, J.)

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