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Weimar v. Geico Advantage Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 16, 2020

JONATHAN M. WEIMAR, Plaintiff,
v.
GEICO ADVANTAGE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS TO COMPEL AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS FOR SANCTIONS

          TU M. PHAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court by order of reference are Geico Advantage Insurance Company's (“Geico”) motions to compel supplemental discovery responses from Jonathan M. Weimar and for sanctions in the form of legal fees and costs. (ECF Nos. 19 & 20.) For the reasons outlined below, the motions to compel are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part and the motions for sanctions are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is an automobile insurance dispute. Weimar alleges Geico charged customers a deductible to cover accidents with uninsured motorists where the uninsured motorists were positively identified and solely at fault. Weimar contends this is unlawful under Tennessee state law. Geico concedes this happened to Weimar, but disputes there was some policy or practice of wrongfully charging deductibles. Geico also argues Weimar failed to accurately report that he was using his car to provide ridesharing services, which Geico argues is grounds for denying Weimar's individual claim.

         On June 29, 2018, Weimar filed a putative class action in Tennessee state court seeking recovery of the amount paid by Geico customers toward the allegedly unlawful deductibles. Discovery quickly became contentious. Geico served a set of interrogatories and requests for production on Weimar about his interactions with ridesharing services and about the “formal notice” Weimar alleges he provided Geico requesting payment of his claim before filing suit. Weimar objected to this discovery, though he answered one interrogatory in what Geico states was an evasive way. Weimar propounded discovery asking for Geico's claims files involving uninsured motorist claims from the relevant class period. Geico objected to this discovery.

         About a year after the suit was filed, the state court ordered Geico to produce a random sample of 20% of its claims files from uninsured motorist claims from the relevant class period, which came out to 1, 366 claims files. At the same time that Geico made its initial production of the claims files, it served an interrogatory on Weimar asking him to: “[p]lease identify by claim number every claim you allege was improperly handled, whether due to violation of Tennessee Code Annotated 56-7-1201(c) or otherwise, and describe in detail the data from the claim file and why you allege the claim was mishandled.” Weimar objected to this discovery. However, without waiving objection, Weimar stated that “Geico improperly handled every [uninsured motorist] claim where Geico's insured was charged a deductible, the insured had both collision and uninsured coverage with Geico, and the operator of the vehicle was positively identified and solely at fault.” Geico took the position this response was insufficient and filed a motion to compel a full response to this interrogatory as well as the earlier disputed discovery requests.

         On October 11, 2019, the state court held a hearing on Geico's motion to compel. At the hearing, the state court orally ruled on the portion of Geico's motion to compel dealing with Weimar's interactions with ridesharing services as follows:

THE COURT: Let me save you some time.
[COUNSEL]: Okay.
THE COURT: Anything that is requested in terms of [Weimar's] employment in driving the car, as he was Ubering, driving his Uber, I'm ordering you to answer those questions in full.

(ECF No. 19-5 at 2.) The state court also ordered Weimar to respond to the interrogatory regarding the “formal notice” issue.[1]

         The state court also orally ruled on the portion of Geico's motion to compel dealing with the claims file interrogatory. The court's oral ruling was issued in the following exchange:

[COUNSEL FOR WEIMAR]: Your Honor, the basis for the objection is they didn't ask for rolling identification. They asked for every claim file that was mishandled. We don't have all the claim files. We are happy to provide kind of a rolling basis what they -
THE COURT: It says every claim file that you allege.
[COUNSEL FOR WEIMAR]: That's correct. And we don't have every claim - we ...

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