APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Bureau County; the Hon.
WILLIAM P. DENNY, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE STOUDER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Defendant's attorney appeals from an order holding him in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the trial court's order to produce certain documents during the discovery process.
On January 24, 1975, the plaintiffs were involved in an automobile accident with the defendant. The complaint seeking recovery for personal injuries sustained in the accident was not filed until August 9, 1977, which was after the statute of limitations had run. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 83, par. 15.) In response to defendant's motion to dismiss because of the expiration of the two-year limitation period, plaintiffs claimed that by virtue of the conduct of the defendant's insurance carrier, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, defendant was estopped from relying upon the statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss because a factual dispute existed relating to the conduct of the parties. Thereafter, defendant filed his answer including the affirmative defense of the statute of limitations, which defense was denied by the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs filed a request to produce which is the source of the controversy on appeal. In particular paragraphs 7, 8, and 9 provide:
"7. Copies of all reports, letters, records, notes or memoranda concerning any investigation of the facts of the occurrence or the nature or extent of the plaintiffs' injuries, and if they claim a privilege is being made as to any of the documents, set forth the nature of the document and the privilege being claimed.
8. Any and all correspondence, reports, memorandum, notices and other documents pertaining to the following:
a. State Farm's investigation of the loss;
b. State Farm's negotiations with plaintiffs and their son;
c. State Farm's evaluations of the plaintiffs' claim;
d. State Farm's written correspondence with the plaintiffs and any of their representatives;
e. Notes or reports of oral conversations with the plaintiffs or their representatives by representatives of State Farm;
f. Inter-office communications within State Farm pertaining to the plaintiffs' claim.
9. The complete claim file of State Farm Insurance Company relating to the incident complained of and subsequent transactions with the Bauters and their representatives."
Defendant objected to producing the documents called for in paragraphs 7, 8 and 9 because the request was too broad and described certain items not properly discoverable. The trial court ordered an in-camera inspection of the 65 disputed documents and numbered the documents 1 thru 65. After its in-camera inspection, the court ordered. defendant to produce documents 2 thru 6 inclusive, 8 thru 30 inclusive, 51 thru 60 inclusive, 62 thru 65 inclusive, and a portion of document 50. Trial counsel for defendant voluntarily ...