Court Provides Refresher On Discovery In Bad-Faith Litigation Where Reinsurers Are Involved

Carlton Fields

A Nevada federal district court provides a primer on discovery rules relating to bad faith claims and reinsurers. The case involved a bad-faith claim between OOIDA Risk Retention Group, Inc. and an individual insured. When the insured’s counsel made an array of discovery requests, OOIDA claimed attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine for many of the documents. The dispute involved five different types of documents: 1): documents authored by or received by the liability adjuster; 2) communications between coverage counsel and liability defense counsel; 3) communications between adjusters and re-insurers; 4) communications or documents related to reserves; and 5) documents related to communications with third-party counsel or staff. The court noted that “the presumption against work product doctrine protection applies prior to a final coverage decision,” at which point there is no presumption that the documents are kept in the ordinary course of business. Given this, and that counsel for the individual claimant did not challenge OOIDA’s contention that providing information to a reinsurer does not waive privilege, the court found that emails “which discuss the liability lawsuit, coverage issues, reserves, and the budget from outside coverage counsel,” were protected by the “qualified immunity bestowed by the work product doctrine.” The court also found that withholding information regarding reserves in a bad faith case on the grounds that they are not relevant holds little water. The “bulk of cases” to consider the issue, the court stated, “have concluded that reserve information is relevant to whether an insurer acted in bad faith.” OOIDA Risk Retention Group, Inc. v. Bordeaux, Case No. 3:15-cv-00081-MD-VPC (USDC D. Nev. Feb. 3, 2016).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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