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State Compensation Insurance Fund v. Montana Sign

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

November 24, 1999

STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND Petitioner/Insurer
v.
MONTANA SIGN, SKINNER ENTERPRISES LIFESTYLE HOMES and ANDY SKINNER Respondents/Purported Employers DANIEL GLOVER Claimant/Respondent

          Submitted: September 28, 1999

          ORDER REGARDING MOTION TO COMPEL

          Mike McCarter, Judge.

         Summary: State Fund moved to compel responses to interrogatories and requests for production in a case involving whether claimant was injured in the course and scope of an employment covered by a policy with State Fund. Respondent provided no discovery at all, but objected to each interrogatory and request to produce with identical language. Among other things, respondent contended the number of interrogatories exceeded the Court's limitation of 20 interrogatories (ARM 24.5.323(6)) if subparts were counted.

         Held: While the interrogatories contain some subparts, most subparts are merely specification of the information needed to answer the interrogatory and should not be counted separately. Given that, the interrogatories do not exceed the limit. Interrogatories seeking information about construction projects of respondents not close in time to the alleged injury are overbroad in time; respondents' objections to those interrogatories are sustained. The remaining interrogatories, designed to obtain information about employment of other people by the companies in question, and contractor-subcontractor relationships, are appropriate. Requests for production, seeking documents concerning the project at issue and which companies were responsible for it, are appropriate. Sanctions were awarded under ARM 24.5.326 because respondent stonewalled and provided no discovery at all, but were withdrawn sue sponte because the Court failed to provide respondent with a hearing prior to awarding sanctions. A hearing for that purpose was calendared.

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Workers' Compensation Court Rules: ARM 24.5.323(6). Discovery sanctions were awarded under ARM 24.5.326 because respondent stonewalled, provided no discovery at all, and objected by rote without consideration of individual discovery requests. Sanctions were withdrawn sue sponte, however, because the Court failed to provide respondent with a hearing prior to awarding sanctions. A hearing for that purpose was calendared.
Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Workers' Compensation Court Rules: ARM 24.5.326. Where subparts contained within interrogatories merely specify the information needed to answer the interrogatory, they should not be counted as separate interrogatories for purposes of determining whether the number of interrogatories exceeded the Court's limitation of 20 interrogatories (ARM 24.5.323(6)).
Discovery: Interrogatories. Where subparts contained within interrogatories merely specify the information needed to answer the interrogatory, they should not be counted as separate interrogatories for purposes of determining whether the number of interrogatories exceeded the Court's limitation of 20 interrogatories (ARM 24.5.323(6)).
Discovery: Interrogatories. In a case involving whether claimant was injured in the course and scope of an employment covered by a policy with State Fund, interrogatories seeking information about construction projects of respondents not close in time to the alleged injury are overbroad in time; respondents' objections to those interrogatories are sustained. The remaining interrogatories, designed to obtain information about employment of other people by the companies in question, and contractor-subcontractor relationships, are appropriate.
Discovery: Requests for Production. In a case involving whether claimant was injured in the course and scope of an employment covered by a policy with State Fund, requests for production seeking documents concerning the construction project at issue and which companies were responsible for it, are appropriate.
Discovery: Sanctions. Discovery sanctions were awarded under ARM 24.5.326 because respondent stonewalled, provided no discovery at all, and objected by rote without consideration of individual discovery requests. Sanctions were withdrawn sue sponte, however, because the Court failed to provide respondent with a hearing prior to awarding sanctions. A hearing for that purpose was calendared.

         ¶1 The matter before the Court is the petitioner's, State Compensation Insurance Fund's, motion to compel further discovery responses to first discovery requests propounded to respondents Montana Sign, Skinner Enterprises, Lifestyle Homes, and Andy Skinner (Skinner). The other respondent, Daniel Glover (claimant), joins in the State Fund's motion. (September 27, 1999 Letter of Carol A. Knight, Secretary to Norman H. Grosfield.)

         ¶2 The State Fund's discovery consisted of four interrogatories and ten requests for production. The respondents objected generally to all interrogatories on the ground that the interrogatories, with subparts, exceeded the Court's limitation of 20 interrogatories, ARM 24.5.323(6), and constituted "numerous and complex interrogatories which aren't limited to the important facts of the case and which are concerned with numerous minor details." With respect to each of the four individual interrogatories, respondents invoked the following mantra:

Object to this interrogatory as the same is oppressive, an annoyance, expensive, irrelevant, burdensome and the information is sought to embarrass these Respondents, and any response will not lead to any useful information necessary for resolution of the issues presented in the petition to this Court on the issue of the status of Daniel Glover.

(Respondents' Purported Employers' Responses to Petitioner's First Discovery Requests.) In response to each of the ten requests for production, the respondents invoked a similar mantra, objecting as follows:

Object to this request for production as the same is oppressive, an annoyance, expensive, irrelevant, burdensome and the informatin is sought to embarrass these Respondents, and any response will not lead to any useful information necessary for resolution of the issues presented in the petition to this Court on the issue of the status of Daniel Glover. Further, there is no time period specified and what transpired prior to the date of the incident is of no probative or evidentiary value to the issues presented here by this petition.

(Id.)

         Discussion

         I. Nature of Controversy

         ¶3 Respondent's objections to the individual interrogatories and requests for production must be considered in the factual context of this case. The petition alleges that Daniel Glover was injured while working at a residence owned by Andy Skinner. Skinner apparently owns or is principal shareholder in Montana Sign, Skinner Enterprises, and Lifestyle Homes, some of which are insured by the State Fund. State Fund alleges that at the time of the accident Glover was an employee of Andy Skinner, personally, hence its policies insuring Skinner companies do not provide coverage for the accident.

         ¶4 The State Fund's Brief in Support of Motion to Compel Discovery sets out the nature of the controversy, as follows:

This case centers around an injury on August 14, 1998 suffered by Daniel Glover while working on a residence owned by Andy Skinner. At the time of the injury Daniel Glover was a member of a construction partnership, KRD Builders (D. Glover depo. pg. 33, exhibit E). KRD Builders had in the past done work for Skinner Enterprises, Lifestyle Homes and possibly Montana Sign Supply (D. Glover depo. pgs. 16-18). All three of these companies or corporations are owned by Andy Skinner (A. Skinner depo. pgs. 5-7, exhibit A).
Andy Skinner alleges that Daniel Glover was working in 1998 as an independent contractor for Skinner Enterprises, Inc. building a deck for his personal residence (A. Skinner depo. pgs. 8-11 and Skinner Third Party Complaint, exhibit B). Skinner also alleges that, except for the day of injury, Glover was an independent contractor. However, while alleging that on August 14, 1998 Glover was an employee of Skinner Enterprises, Skinner admits that Glover was paid for his work on that day by Montana Sign Supply Company. (Skinners' Answers To Glovers' First Set Of Discovery Requests, exhibit C, Third Party Complaint and A. Skinner depo. pgs. 32-35). Andy Skinner also filed a First Report with the State Fund representing that Dan Glover was injured on August 14, 1998 while employed by Andy Skinner under the commercial name of Montana Sign Supply. (First Report, exhibit D) Skinner's explanation for the transition from independent contractor to employee without explanation for payment and reporting under Montana Sign Supply is that KRD builders did not perform adequately in the construction of the ...

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