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Public Service Insurance Co. v. Mount View Realty, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 7, 2016




         Pending before the Court is a Motion to Compel filed by defendant Mount View Realty, LLC, (“Mount View”) requesting production of documents and more responsive answers to certain interrogatories by plaintiff Public Service Insurance Co. (“PSIC”). See Doc. #66. The Court has previously filed an order addressing the portion of the motion related to document production. See Doc. #119. This order addresses the portion of the motion related to interrogatory responses. For the reasons set forth below, Mount View's Motion to Compel [Doc. #66] is hereby GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.

         This order addresses the requests in Mount View's motion to compel seeking “more responsive answers to certain interrogatories.” Doc. #66 at 2. Mount View asserts that “PSIC's answers are inadequate” as to Interrogatories 4, 12, and 13 and that PSIC “did not provide any answer at all” to Interrogatories 14, 15, 16, and 20. Doc. #67 at 10. The Court will address each challenged interrogatory in turn.

         I. Legal Standard

         As an initial matter, this action was filed by PSIC “for the purpose of determining the parties' respective rights and obligations” under the relevant insurance policy. Doc. #1 at 1. Accordingly, evidence relating to PSIC's standard policies and construction of terms is discoverable.

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the scope and limitations of permissible discovery:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “The party resisting discovery bears the burden of showing why discovery should be denied.” Cole v. Towers Perrin Forster & Crosby, 256 F.R.D. 79, 80 (D. Conn. 2009). The objecting party's burden is to “demonstrate specifically how, despite the broad and liberal construction afforded the federal discovery rules, each request is not relevant or how each question is overly broad, burdensome or oppressive by submitting affidavits or offering evidence revealing the nature of the burden.” Ghawi v. Law Offices of Howard Lee Schiff, No. 3:13CV00115(JBA)(JGM), 2015 WL 2374577, at *3 (D. Conn. May 18, 2015) (internal citation and alterations omitted). “A conclusory assertion of burdensomeness is entitled to no weight whatsoever.” Cris v. Fareri, No. 3:10CV01926(RNC)(DFM), 2011 WL 4433961, at *1 (D. Conn. Sept. 22, 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (collecting cases).

         PSIC's brief in opposition to the motion to compel makes a blanket argument that the information sought by the challenged interrogatories is “wholly irrelevant” and constitutes a “fishing expedition.” Doc. #86 at 5. The Court disagrees. The interrogatories generally seek information that would assist Mount View in understanding how PSIC interprets the relevant policy provisions. “In order to interpret the Policy, [Mount View] is entitled to explore what risks [PSIC] expected to cover when it used terms similar to those in the Policy.” Pentair Water Treatment (OH) Co. v. Cont'l Ins. Co., No. 08CV3604(BSJ)(JCF), 2009 WL 3817600 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 2009). Information regarding particular policy terms and their interpretation by an insurer is relevant and discoverable. See Thompson v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., No. 3:14CV00259(WWE), 2015 WL 753721, at *4 (D. Conn. Feb. 23, 2015).

         “[W]hile the intent of the parties with respect to an insurance policy is generally derived from the four corners of the policy, a court also may consider extrinsic evidence to ascertain the intent of the parties, if the terms of the insurance policy are reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation, which renders the terms to be ambiguous.” Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp. v. Interstate Fire & Cas. Co., 297 F.R.D. 22, 30 (D. Conn. 2014), objections overruled, No. 3:12CV1641(JBA), 2015 WL 164069 (D. Conn. Jan. 13, 2015) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). This case concerns a dispute regarding the proper interpretation of a “water leakage” exclusion. Evidence that would illuminate the meaning of that exclusion is relevant and discoverable.

         II. Interrogatory 4

         Mount View's Interrogatory 4 requests that plaintiff provide additional information regarding answers provided in response to Interrogatory 3.

         Interrogatory No. 4:

Identify the underwriting rules or requirements or guidelines in effect for insuring multi-unit residential apartment buildings in Connecticut that applied to Mount View's building at the time of issuance of each policy identified in response to Interrogatory 3.

         Doc. #67-2 at 12. In response to Interrogatory 3, PSIC identified (or at least conceded the existence of) three insurance policies issued to defendant with effective dates of August 16, 2012; August 16, 2013; and August 16, 2014. Interrogatory 4 is limited to matters specifically pertaining to Mount View's covered property, and to these dates.

         PSIC responds with a litany of general objections, and the assertion that it would be “impossible to state with precision all ‘underwriting rules or requirements or guidelines' in effect in Connecticut[.]” Doc. #86 at 6. PSIC's response further asserts that PSIC's “Underwriting Department would have applied and ...

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