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The Travelers Property Casualty Insurance Company v. Electrolux Home Products

April 2, 2013

THE TRAVELERS PROPERTY CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELECTROLUX HOME PRODUCTS DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: P. Michael Mahoney, Magistrate Judge United States District Court

District Judge Frederick J. Kapala

Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are three motions: (1) Plaintiff's Motion to Quash Defendant's Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition Notices or, In the Alternative, For a Protective Order Limiting the Notices; (2) Plaintiff's Motion to Quash Defendant's Subpoena or, In the Alternative, For a Protective Order; and (3) Defendant's Motion to Compel Discovery. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion to Quash Defendant's Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition Notices is granted in part and denied in part, Defendant's Motion to Compel is granted in part and denied in part, and since neither party dealt with Plaintiff's Motion to Quash Defendant's Subpoena, or In the Alternative, For a Protective Order, the Court assumes the Motion is withdrawn without prejudice.

Background

This case involves a subrogation suit brought by Plaintiff, The Travelers Property Casualty Insurance Company ("Plaintiff or Travelers"), as subrogee of its insured, Kent and Kimberly Rouse ("Rouses"), against Defendant, Electrolux Home Products ("Defendant or Electrolux"), based on allegations of an alleged defect in an Electrolux clothes dryer that caused a fire in the Rouses' home.

The parties' discovery dispute centers around Defendant's list of topics contained in its 30(b)(6) Deposition Notice. Electrolux's 30(b)(6) Deposition Notice originally contained 25 topics. Of the original 25 topics, only topics 21 and 22 were agreed to by Travelers. After communications between the parties regarding the remaining 23 disputed topics, Plaintiff filed its Motion to Quash Defendant's 30(b)(6) Deposition Notice. On January 23, 2013, Electrolux narrowed the topics and sent Travelers a revised list of 15 topics. On January 28, 2013, Electrolux filed its Motion to Compel Discovery of the revised list of 15 topics. On January 24, 2013, Electrolux served a deposition subpoena upon John Vesey, requesting that Mr. Vesey appear on February 6, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. On January 28, 2013, Travelers filed its Motion to Quash Electrolux's subpoena of Mr. Vesey.

After a Discovery hearing on January 30, 2013, the parties were instructed by the Court to hold a Local Rule 37.2 conference by February 20, 2013, and to file a report of the conference with the Court by February 27, 2013. In the parties report, 14 of the 15 topics were organized into five categories:

(1) Travelers' underwriting and subrogation practices, to the extent they relate to Electrolux-manufactured dryers; (Topics 1 and 15)

(2) Travelers' testing of dryers that were either (a) manufactured by Electrolux, or (b) manufactured by another entity, to the extent those dryers differ from the Electrolux dryers in a manner believed to be relevant to a claimed defect; (Topics 2 and 3)

(3) Travelers' attendance at conferences where Electrolux fires were discussed, including a specific conference where Electrolux understands Electrolux dryer fires to have been a specific subject of a formal presentation; (Topic 4)

(4) Travelers' website and blog postings where Travelers advised homeowners to clean and maintaining their clothes dryers and venting; and (Topics 5-12)

(5) Travelers' training of the party that handled the investigation of the claim on Travelers' behalf. (Topic 14)

The Court will rule on all 14 topics individually.

Discussion

I. Travelers' underwriting and subrogation practices, to the extent they relate to Electrolux-manufactured dryers.

Travelers objects to Category 1 based on relevancy. Category 1 includes the following topics:

(1) Travelers' underwriting and subrogation practices and procedures, to the extent such practices and procedures refer to, reflect, or otherwise relate to Electrolux-manufactured dryers, including, by way of example but not limitation, the extent to which any belief on Travelers' part that Electrolux-manufactured dryers (including the dryer at issue in this litigation) are inherently defective bears on Travelers' decisions regarding whether to accept risk, or the manner in which Travelers values and prices such risk given such beliefs, as well as the procedures employed upon learning that a fire involved an Electrolux-manufacture dryer; and (15) The timing of Travelers' decision to pursue subrogation in this matter, the individuals that participated in the decision, and any policies, procedures, or claim handling guidelines triggered by Travelers' decision.

Travelers argues that its conduct is irrelevant to this action. Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets the scope and limits on discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26(b)(1) states that "[u]nless otherwise limited by court order . . . [p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any ...


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