State Farm Compelled To Produce Privilege Log In Insurance Dispute

Hurley v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Dist. Court, D. South Dakota 2012 – Google Scholar.

This is a common issue in litigation.  Plaintiff sues an insurance company for coverage or bad faith and the insurance company withholds all the documents on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.

Here, plaintiff sought sanctions, which were denied.  The court, however, ordered State Farm to produce a privilege log.  A privilege log is a summary of the documents and why they being withheld.  The Plaintiff will have much more work to do before he gets the documents.

The court also required State Farm to produce its claims manual.

In request for production number 13, Hurley seeks “all documents . . . which relate to whether [State Farm] may withhold undisputed portions of UIM benefits from a policyholder until all disputed portions of the claim are resolved.” Docket 31-4 at 6. State Farm produced a portion of the Automobile Insurance Company’s claims manual. Hurley moves to compel production of the entire claims manual.

State Farm contends that because Hurley did not request the claims manual, it does not need to produce the entire manual. See Docket 35 at 13 (“Plaintiff should be held to the precise wording of his request for production number thirteen[.]”). Hurley does not work for State Farm and cannot be expected to know that the claims manual contains the information sought in request number 13. Instead, Hurley broadly sought “all documents,” not portions of documents, pertaining to withholding UIM benefits. The claims manual could lead to relevant information and provides context for the information relating to how UIM claims are handled. Thus, State Farm is ordered to produce the entire claims manual.”

Comment: a typical tough fight with an insurance company in a coverage or bad faith lawsuit.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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