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Haas v. State Compensation Insurance Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

September 1, 2000

ALLEN J. HAAS, Petitioner,
v.
STATE COMPENSATION INSURANCE FUND, Respondent/Insurer for NEWMAN RANCH, Employer.

          Submitted: July 27, 2000

          ORDER GRANTING PROTECTIVE ORDER AND QUASHING DEPOSITION; ORDER DENYING MOTION TO COMPEL

          MIKE MCCARTER JUDGE.

         Summary of Case: State Fund moves for a protective order to preclude deposition of investigator employed by attorneys defending a civil suit brought by claimant and to protect her investigative file. Claimant moves to compel production of that file and a memorandum of a State Fund attorney to the Tort Claims Division to the Court for in camera inspection. The rationale for the discovery is to support claimant's request for lump summing of domiciliary care benefits by showing the mental and emotional stress caused by investigations of claimant.

         Held: Motion for protective order granted, motion to compel denied. The claimant is seeking attorney work product and attorney/client communication. He has shown no need for the information. His mental/emotional stress theory must be based on what he knew or perceived about the investigation. Details of the investigation are irrelevant.

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules. Mont.R.Civ.Pro. 26(b)(3). Court granted protective order regarding contents of investigator's file and letter from attorney to State Fund to administrator of Tort Claims Unit of State of Montana. Contents of file contained work product and attorney/client communications; claimant had not shown relevance of those materials, much less justification to invade work product. Letter was privileged attorney/client communication.
Attorneys: Correspondence. Letter from counsel for State Compensation Insurance Fund to administrator of Tort Claims Unit of State of Montana regarding notice of tort claim filed by workers' compensation claimant was an attorney-client communication and thus absolutely privileged from discovery. Hearing Examiner for Workers' Compensation Court would be made available if counsel for claimant wished confirmation that letter was in fact attorney-client communication.
Benefits: Domiciliary Care. Where claimant argued ongoing relationship with insurer was detrimental to him and warranted lump sum of domiciliary care benefits, the only relevance of evidence of investigation into him involved the effect of the investigation upon him, including what he knew or perceived and how he reacted. Court thus granted protective order, and denied motion to compel, relating to details of investigation where such details involved attorney work product and attorney/client communications.
Discovery: Compelling Discovery. Where claimant argued ongoing relationship with insurer was detrimental to him and warranted lump sum of domiciliary care benefits, the only relevance of evidence of investigation into him involved the effect of the investigation upon him, including what he knew or perceived and how he reacted. Court thus granted protective order, and denied motion to compel, relating to details of investigation contained in investigator's file where such details involved attorney work product and attorney/client communications.
Discovery: Privileges: Attorney client. Letter from counsel for State Compensation Insurance Fund to administrator of Tort Claims Unit of State of Montana regarding notice of tort claim filed by workers' compensation claimant was an attorney-client communication and thus absolutely privileged from discovery. Hearing Examiner for Workers' Compensation Court would be made available if counsel for claimant wished confirmation that letter was in fact attorney-client communication.
Discovery: Privileges: Work Product. Where claimant argued ongoing relationship with insurer was detrimental to him and warranted lump sum of domiciliary care benefits, the only relevance of evidence of investigation into him involved the effect of the investigation upon him, including what he knew or perceived and how he reacted. Court thus granted protective order, and denied motion to compel, relating to details of investigation contained in investigator's file where such details involved attorney work product and attorney/client communications.
Discovery: Protective Orders. Court granted protective order regarding contents of investigator's file and letter from attorney to State Fund to administrator of Tort Claims Unit of State of Montana. Contents of file contained work product and attorney/client communications; claimant had not shown relevance of those materials, much less justification to invade work product. Letter was privileged attorney/client communication.

         ¶1 The matter before the Court is State Compensation Insurance Fund's (State Fund's) motion to quash deposition subpoena duces tecum and for protective order. The subpoena is directed to Connie Campbell for a deposition noticed for August 2, 2000, and requests her to bring with her the following:

Investigative documents generated by and/or maintained by you in reference to investigative contacts and interviews conducted by you in reference to Allen ...

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