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USAA Casualty Insurance Co. v. Eighth Judicial District Court

Supreme Court of Montana

April 23, 2019

USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner,
v.
EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, HONORABLE JOHN W. PARKER, PRESIDING, Respondent.

          ORDER

          On March 5, 2019, USAA Casualty Insurance Company (USAA) petitioned this Court for a Writ of Supervisory Control over the Montana Eighth Judicial District Court in Cause No. DDV-18-0038 to reverse that court's Order Denying Defendant USAA's Motion for a Protective Order. We ordered a response, as well as a stay of proceedings in the District Court pending the outcome of this Petition. Joseph Richard Goss (Goss), the Plaintiff in the underlying action, responded and opposed the Petition.

         In May 2015, Goss was injured in a collision with a vehicle driven by Diann Stevens (Stevens) while driving his motorcycle in Great Falls. Goss insured four vehicles through USAA, which included underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), but the motorcycle was insured through a different company. After Stevens' insurer paid its liability limit to Goss, he submitted a claim to USAA for UIM benefits. USAA originally accepted the claim and paid Goss $25, 000 in benefits. USAA then reversed its coverage determination and denied further UIM benefits to Goss under the policy and indicated it would not seek reimbursement of funds already paid to Goss. In January 2018, Goss filed suit against Stevens and USAA seeking, in relevant part, a declaratory judgment that coverage exists under the UIM portion of Goss's USAA policy.

         On March 29, 2018, Goss filed his Notice of Corporate Depositions, seeking to depose a USAA representative on seven topics pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6):

1.USAA's knowledge about the incident described in Plaintiffs Complaint and Jury Demand, which occurred on May 21, 2015;
2.USAA's investigation and handling of the claim Plaintiff filed with USAA regarding the May 21, 2015, incident;
3. All insurance coverages provided by USAA to Plaintiff which were in effect on May 21, 2015;
4. Any and all coverage analyses performed by USAA, or solicited by USAA, regarding coverage under any USAA insurance policy for the claims related to the May 21, 2015, incident;
5. Coverage for claims arising out of the May 21, 2015, incident under any underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage provided by USAA to Plaintiff, including knowledge of the policy provisions of underinsured and uninsured motorist coverages in effect at the time of the incident;
6.USAA's responses to Plaintiffs first discovery requests to USAA; and
7. Any surveillance conducted on Plaintiff by, or on behalf of, USAA, as described in response to Interrogatory No. 4.

         USAA filed its Notice of Objections to Plaintiffs Rule 30(b)(6) Notice on May 3, 2018. On May 4, 2018, USAA filed a Motion for a Protective Order. On October 10, 2018, the District Court held a hearing on the motion. On December 14, 2018, the District Court issued an Order Denying Defendant USAA's Motion for a Protective Order, which noted that Goss had agreed to strike topic number 7, regarding surveillance, leaving only topics 1 through 6. USAA then filed the present Writ of Supervisory Control.

         Supervisory control is an extraordinary remedy. Evans v. Mont. Eleventh Judicial Dist. Ct, 2000 MT 38, ¶ 15, 298 Mont. 279, 995 P.2d 455 (citation omitted). Supervisory control is appropriate when the district court is proceeding based on a mistake of law which, if uncorrected, would cause significant injustice for which an appeal is an inadequate remedy. Truman v. Mont. Eleventh Judicial Dist. Ct, 2003 MT 91, ¶ 13, 315 Mont. 165, 68 P.3d 654 (citing Park v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Ct., 1998 MT 164, ¶ 13, 289 Mont. 367, 961 P.2d 1267). Whether it is appropriate for this Court to assume supervisory control is a "case-by-case decision that depends on the presence of extraordinary circumstances and a particular need to prevent an injustice from occurring." Truman, ¶ 13 (citing Park, ¶ 13).

         Pretrial discovery disputes are typically not appropriate for exercise of supervisory control. We have previously noted that "[i]t is not our place to micromanage discovery" Mont. State Univ.-Bozeman v. Mont. First Judicial Dist. Ct., 2018 MT 220, ¶ 17 n.2, 392 Mont. 458, 426 P.3d 541 (internal quotation omitted). USAA moved for a protective order claiming that the requested Rule 30(b)(6) deposition would be an undue burden or expense and implicate work product considerations.

         "The purpose of discovery is to promote the ascertainment of truth and the ultimate disposition of the lawsuit in accordance therewith. Discovery fulfills this purpose by assuring the mutual knowledge of all relevant facts gathered by both parties which are essential to proper litigation." Massaro v. Dunham,184 Mont. 400, 405, 603 P.2d 249, 252 (1979) (citing Hickman v. Taylor,329 U.S. 495, 507, 67 S.Ct. 385, 392 (1947)). Discovery rules are to be "liberally construed to make all relevant facts available to parties in advance of trial and to reduce the possibilities of surprise and unfair advantage." Cox v. Magers,2018 MT 21, ¶ 15, 390 Mont. 224, 411 P.3d 1271 (quoting Richardson v. State,2006 MT 43, ¶ 24, 331 Mont. 231, 130 P.3d 634) (emphasis in original). A district court has "inherent discretionary power to control discovery based on its authority to ...


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