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Menotti v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

January 25, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nan R. Nolan


Plaintiff Ralph Menotti has filed a diversity suit alleging that Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife") committed breach of contract and breach of the Illinois Insurance Code by failing to pay him benefits under a disability insurance policy. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Currently before the court is MetLife's motion to compel. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Menotti was injured in a motor vehicle accident on November 23, 2005. He quit working a few months later on July 30, 2006, claiming that he was unable to perform the functions of his job as a commodities broker with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange ("CME"). Menotti submitted a claim for benefits under his MetLife disability insurance policy (the "Policy"), and started receiving a monthly payment of $5,550. On December 18, 2007, however, MetLife sent Menotti a letter stating that it was ceasing his disability benefits because he was no longer disabled within the meaning of the Policy. Menotti disputes this assessment and insists that he is entitled to his full benefits.

MetLife has now issued written discovery requests to Menotti seeking documents and information relating to his occupation, potential witnesses and damages. Menotti objected that many of the requests are irrelevant and overbroad, prompting the instant motion to compel.


The Federal Rules permit discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party. FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). "Mutual knowledge of all the relevant facts gathered by both parties is essential to proper litigation. To that end, either party may compel the other to disgorge whatever facts he has in his possession." In re Thomas Consolidated Indus., Inc., No. 04 C 6185, 2005 WL 3776322, at *6 (N.D. Ill. May 19, 2005), aff'd 456 F.3d 719 (7th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947)).

MetLife first argues that Menotti has waived all of his objections by failing to serve timely discovery responses. MetLife admits, however, that it engaged in discussions with Menotti regarding his overdue responses, and that, rather than file a motion to compel, it accepted his assurances that responses were forthcoming. On these facts, a finding of blanket waiver is not appropriate. Cf. Davis v. City of Springfield, IL, Nos. 04-3168, 07-3096, 2009 WL 268893, at *3 (C.D. Ill. Jan. 30, 2009) (objection waived where there was "no evidence of any relevant contact between the parties" and counsel expressly asserted waiver in a letter to opposing counsel).

MetLife next argues that Menotti must respond to Document Request Nos. 4-7, 10, 13, 16, 22 and 28, and Interrogatory Nos. 1, 2, 6, 8, 14, 15, 18 and 20. The court addresses each in turn.

1. Request No. 4

Request No. 4 seeks documents reflecting the discontinuation of, or changes in Menotti's trading activities. Menotti objects that this request is overly broad and invades his privacy. He directs MetLife to his medical records, and has produced a single letter from MF Global Inc. stating that it formally closed Menotti's trading account on June 5, 2008 "due to inactivity." (Ex. 2 to Def. Reply.) The court agrees that this response is inadequate. Menotti filed this lawsuit seeking to recover "Total Disability" and "Residual Disability" benefits, which both require a showing that Menotti is unable to perform the important duties of his occupation. Menotti worked as a commodities trader, so his ability to engage in trading activities appears relevant to his disability claim. Menotti must produce all documents reflecting that he has discontinued or changed his trading activities. If no such documents exist, he must submit a signed affidavit to that effect, including a description of the efforts he took to locate them.

2. Request Nos. 5 and 6

Request No. 5 seeks documents from January 1, 2001 to the present relating to the entities with which Menotti has transacted business, and the clearing houses through which he has cleared transactions. Request No. 6 asks for documents reflecting Menotti's membership in trade exchanges. Menotti again objects that these requests are overly broad and an invasion of privacy. MetLife argues that the documents are relevant to show the type of trading Menotti performed, and to explore other reasons that Menotti may have decided to stop trading, such as market changes or financial incentives. The court agrees that MetLife is not required to rely solely on Menotti's representations as to the nature of his trading activities, but can make its own assessment from an examination of the pertinent documents. With respect to Request No. 6, Menotti's membership in trade exchanges may be relevant to show the type of work he performed, as well as possible accommodations that could be made for his condition. Menotti's objection to Request No. 6 is overruled, and the documents must be produced.

With respect to Request No. 5, Menotti claims that he "does not possess" any documents. MetLife disputes this assertion, noting that during the claim process, Menotti produced a Monthly Statement from Man Financial. (Ex. 3 to Def. Reply.) The court cannot order Menotti to produce documents that he does not have. That said, Menotti has an affirmative duty to search for documents that may be responsive to MetLife's requests. For purposes of Request No. 5, Menotti must either produce the requested ...

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