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United Automobile Insurance Company v. Wiley

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

January 4, 2019

UNITED AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIEANE N. WILEY., et al., Defendants. MARY L. SELLERS, Counter-Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Counter-Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. MARTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on six motions filed by Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff Mary Sellers:

(1) Motion for Protective Order and to Establish Sequence of Discovery Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 [DE 33], filed July 6, 2018. Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant United Automobile Insurance Company responded on July 20, 2018, and Sellers replied on July 27;
(2) Motion to Compel Answers and Production to First Set of Interrogatories and Related Document Production [DE 35], filed July 9, 2018. United responded on July 23, 2018, and Sellers replied on July 30, 2018;
(3) Motion to Compel Truthful and Complete Answers and Production Responsive to Second Set of Interrogatories and Related Document Production [DE 37], filed July 9, 2018. United responded on July 23, 2018, and Sellers replied on July 30, 2018;
(4) Motion to Compel Responses to First Set of Requests for Production of Documents [DE 39], filed July 9, 2018. United responded on July 23, 2018, and Sellers replied on July 30, 2018;
(5) Motion to Compel Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition Testimony of UAIC and Related Relief [DE 41], filed July 10, 2018. United responded on July 24, 2018, and Sellers replied on July 31, 2018; and
(6) Third Agreed Motion to Extend Case Management Deadlines [DE 58], filed December 20, 2018.

         I. Background

         On June 28, 2013, Defendant Brieane Wiley's car rear-ended the vehicle of Defendant Mary Sellers, injuring Sellers and her husband, Joshua. Sellers and her husband sued Wiley in state court. Wiley was insured by United Automobile Insurance Company, but United did not defend the claim in court, and a default judgment was entered against Wiley. After the parties stipulated to a range of combined damages between $772, 877 and $883, 797 for both Plaintiffs, the court entered a judgment of $795, 037 for Mary Sellers and $12, 000 for Joshua Sellers ($807, 037 in total), and Wiley assigned her claims against United to Mary Sellers. United has brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Wiley in the state court action, arguing in part that Wiley did not properly notify United of the lawsuit and failed to cooperate with United's lawyer. Mary Sellers filed counterclaims against United, including allegations of fraud, negligence, and breach of contract. Sellers has now filed five motions to compel discovery, and seeks to extend the discovery schedule.

         II. Analysis

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) permits discovery “regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Relevance is “construed broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978) (citing Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 501 (1947)). A party objecting to the discovery request bears the burden of “show[ing] why [that] particular discovery request is improper.” McGrath v. Everest Nat. Ins. Co., 625 F.Supp.2d 660, 670 (N.D. Ind. 2008). The Court has broad discretion when deciding discovery matters. Thermal Design, Inc. v. Am. Soc'y of Heating, Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Eng'rs, Inc., 755 F.3d 832, 837 (7th Cir. 2014); Rennie v. Dalton, 3 F.3d 1100, 1110 (7th Cir. 1993)).

         A: Motion for Protective Order [DE 33]

         Sellers seeks a protective order precluding United from deposing her regarding the underlying state court judgment. Although United's response brief does not directly state what information it seeks from Sellers, the Court assumes that Sellers would be asked to testify to bad faith or collusion relating to the parties' stipulation, or to the reasonableness of the damages awarded. United argues that the state court judgment was a consent judgment, which binds an insurer only if it is not “the product of bad faith or collusion and . . . falls somewhere within a broad range of reasonable resolutions of the underlying dispute.” Carpenter v. Lovell's Lounge & Grill, LLC, 59 N.E.3d 330 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). Sellers argues that the judgment was not a consent judgment, because although the parties entered a stipulation as to the range of damages, the state court made the final determination of damages based on the evidence before it.

         A consent judgment is an agreement between the parties settling the underlying dispute, which is entered as a judgment by the court. Minix v. Canarecci, 956 N.E.2d 62, 68 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011) (citing Hanover Logansport, Inc. v. Robert C. Anderson, Inc., 512 N.E.2d 465, 469 (Ind.Ct.App.1987); Stenger v. LLC Corp., 819 N.E.2d 480, 482 (Ind.Ct.App. 2004)). The entry of a consent judgment is therefore a “ministerial duty, ” recording the agreement of the parties, and does not represent the judgment of the court. Siegel v. Williams, 818 N.E.2d 510, 514 (Ind.Ct.App. 2004) (quoting State ex rel. Prosser v. Ind. Waste Sys., Inc., 603 N.E.2d 181, 186 (Ind.Ct.App. 1992); Mercantile Nat. Bank of Ind. v. Teamsters Union Local No. 142 Pension Fund, 668 N.E.2d 1269, 1271 (Ind.Ct.App. 1996)).

         In the state court case, the parties stipulated that “final judgment shall be for Plaintiffs, collectively, in an aggregate amount of no less than $772, 877 and no more than $883, 797 . . . The parties further agree that the final entry of damages and entry of Final Judgment shall be within the reasonable discretion of the trial court upon its review of the record evidence.” The court's order on damages stated that the parties “submitted the matter to the Court for its final determination of damages based upon the evidentiary submissions before the Court. . . . The Court has carefully considered and reviewed such evidence, and determined that damages on the default judgment are appropriately and reasonably fixed [at the combined figure of $807, 037].”

         The court's order was not a consent judgment. The court specifically stated that it evaluated the evidence in arriving at a final judgment, and it made factual findings that were not contained in the stipulation, such as Sellers's life expectancy at the time of the collision. United points to the parties' agreement that damages “shall” be within the stipulated range, but the court was not required to interpret that as a consent judgment, and did not do so. The court's factual findings and evaluation of the evidence are inconsistent with a “ministerial” consent judgment that simply records the agreement of the parties.

         Sellers also seeks an order precluding her deposition on any other topic until United has completed its responses to Sellers's first sets of interrogatories and requests for production. United does not identify any other topics on which it would depose Sellers or state why the deposition needs to happen before United fully produces preliminary written discovery. Because Sellers herself responded to discovery prior to deposing United's witnesses, and because United's responses to the requests are deficient for the reasons described below, the Court ...


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