Though parties to personal injury litigation in American federal courts have broad discovery rights, certain materials are protected in the discovery process including those that are subject to the attorney-client and work product privileges. In a recent case, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico granted in part a motion for a protective order brought by an insurance company defendant.
The case arose after an insurance company denial of coverage. A woman was involved in a New Mexico motor vehicle accident with an unknown driver, following which she made a claim with her insurance company for uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. The insurance company denied coverage, taking the position that its insured was 100% at fault for the accident. The insured driver then sued for UM benefits and punitive damages and a jury found the UM driver 100% at fault and awarded the insured driver damages.
Thereafter the plaintiff sued her insurance company for breach of contract, bad faith, negligence, and unfair practices for the insurance company’s failure to pay the claim, including paying the jury verdict, and for its handling of the claim through the underlying lawsuit. The insurance company paid the jury verdict and sought a protective order with respect to discovery sought by the plaintiff.