United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia
ORDER GRANTING AS MOULDED PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
P. MAZZONE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
previous day came the Plaintiff, by and through their
counsel, with a Motion to Compel [ECF No. 22]. This matter
was referred to the undersigned for consideration by Order of
Referral [ECF No. 24]. Accordingly, a hearing was held in
this matter on January 31, 2019. After considering the
Plaintiff's written Motion and Memorandum in Support [ECF
No. 23], the Defendant's Response [ECF No. 29] thereto
and Plaintiff's Reply [ECF No. 36], the applicable law
and the evidence and argument submitted by the parties during
the aforementioned hearing, the Court is satisfied that
Plaintiff's Motion should be GRANTED AS
MOULDED by the Court.
civil action arises out of a partial denial of
Plaintiffs' claim for property insurance benefits.
Plaintiffs instituted this action in the Circuit Court of
Marshall County, WV, but Defendant removed the matter to
Federal Court by Defendant. [ECF No. 1.]
January 23, 2018, Plaintiffs allege that they suffered
property damage to their home when a windstorm allegedly
caused the roof of the front porch to detach from the main
structure and blow backward, across the roof of the main home
and land in the above-ground pool in the backyard. Allegedly
as a result of this incident, Plaintiffs' front porch
roof was destroyed as was the swimming pool. On January 29,
2018, Allstate adjuster Brian Frangipani and
“James” from Hancock Roofing inspected
Plaintiffs' home. During this inspection, the homeowner,
Michael Thompson allegedly advised both Mr. Frangipani and
“James” that he was unhappy with how the front
porch roof was constructed. At that point, Mr. Frangipani
ceased the inspection and advised that an engineer would need
to conduct the same to determine whether the damages were due
to “shoddy construction”. According to Michael
Thompson, Mr. Frangipani advised that the engineer would be
randomly assigned from a pool of inspectors, as there had
been previous allegations of bias against Allstate by their
insureds. [ECF No. 23 at 1-2.] Michael Thompson maintains
that he did not elicit this information, but that it was
voluntarily provided by Mr. Frangipani. [ECF No. 23, Exhibit
D.] Nothing in the record contradicts this account.
retained Donan Engineering to inspect Plaintiffs' home.
Scott Wasson was selected by Donan Engineering to conduct the
inspection. The inspection occurred on February 5, 2018. In
his report dated February 9, 2018, Mr. Wasson opined that
inadequate construction caused the porch roof to detach from
the structure. Mr. Wasson also opined that the windstorm of
January 23, 2018 involved “non-damaging winds.”
[ECF No. 29 at 3-4.] Though Defendants initially denied
Plaintiffs' claim in its entirety, Allstate eventually
agreed to cover all damages caused by the errant porch roof
but has declined to cover the cost to repair/replace the
porch roof itself. [Plaintiffs' Complaint at ¶¶
have alleged breach of contract, as well as statutory and
common law bad faith. [Plaintiffs' Complaint.] On or
about October 30, 2018, Plaintiffs propounded their Second
Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production upon
Defendant. [ECF No. 14.] Defendant's answers to
Interrogatories 1, 6 and 7, and to Requests for Production
1-5 are at issue in Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel.
ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES
maintains that the appropriate rule under which to view this
dispute is R. 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Plaintiff contends that the discovery requests at
issue are designed to elicit evidence of potential bias on
the part of Donan Engineering and by extension Mr. Wasson.
Therefore, Plaintiff argues that Defendant should be
compelled to provide more thorough and complete answers to
the discover requests at issue. The bias of any witness is
always relevant and therefore Defendants should be compelled
to provide more thorough and detailed answers to the
discovery requests at issue.
argues that the discovery requests at issue exceed the scope
of permissible discovery under R. 26(b)(4), which is the
appropriate rule through which to analyze this dispute
because Mr. Wasson has been identified as an expert witness.
further argues that Plaintiffs' discovery requests are
irrelevant because Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that Mr.
Wasson's engineering conclusions were incorrect, or that
Allstate knew that Mr. Wasson's conclusions were
incorrect and should therefore have disregarded them.
Defendant contends that, even if Plaintiffs' discovery
requests are relevant, the discovery requests are not
proportional to the issues at stake and the amount in
controversy, and that the burden ...