Brown v. Advocate Health – Trial Court Did Not Abuse Discretion in Requiring In Camera Inspection of Self-Insured Trust Documents Withheld by Defendant Hospital

Brown v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation, No. 1-16-1918.

Facts:  Defendant identified a self-insured trust with coverage of $14.5 million but refused to produce the corresponding documents.  Plaintiff presented a motion to compel and the trial court ordered that defendant produce the documents for in camera inspection.  Defendant refused and requested a friendly contempt finding in order to appeal the order.

Holding:  Trial Court did not abuse discretion in requiring defendant to produce the documents for in camera inspection and defendant’s argument that the documents were not relevant is incorrect as the amounts of available insurance coverage for a claim is important information for litigants as a practical matter and should be fully disclosed.

Filed in Trial Book Under:  Discovery; Insurance Coverage

Commentary:  I have not run into this specific response from a defendant to a request for insurance information but often get some type of “relevance” objection to the production of actual policy documents.  Typically, the defendants will disclose the amount of insurance and excess policies in their answers to interrogatories and then file a pro-forma objection when the documents are requested in a 214 Request for Production.  As a practical matter, this non-disclosure tactic works because the insurance coverage is adequate to satisfy any judgment and/or the actual insurance contract documents are not particularly needed to determine whether there is coverage or not so it’s not worth fighting over in a motion to compel.  In cases where there may be a coverage issue, like construction claims where there are tenders from the general to a sub-contractor, it is important to actually see the language in the contract, so this case could be helpful in the event that there is push back in producing it.   Moreover, in a case where the damages are extensive and could easily exceed the different policies it would be a good idea to have access to the actual agreements so this case could be useful in that type of dispute.  Also of interest in this case is that Justice Gordon filed a dissenting opinion finding that the documents would likely be confidential financial documents that should not have been produced.

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Filed under Discovery, Insurance Coverage, Uncategorized

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