…counsel for the Defendant became aware of a problem with getting the files in and began trying to investigate the holdup on receiving the files. Counsel for the Defendant received an answer and provided that information to both counsel for the Plaintiff and the Court on September 24, 2009. The individual responsible for gathering and scanning the files in the Southern Zone for State Farm had been out of the office the week prior. Nevertheless, a disk had been made of the claim files on Monday, September 21, 2009, within the time agreed to by Plaintiff’s counsel for the production, but the disk did not reach counsel for the Defendant until Thursday, September 24, 2009. The disk was immediately provided to counsel for the Plaintiff at or near noon of September 24, 2009. Another disk with twelve additional claims was provided on September 29, 2009. (State Farm’s October 7, 2009, Response to Bossier’s Motion for Sanctions) (emphasis added)
The Court ordered documents were to be produced by State Farm by September 17, 2009. Without withdrawing his Motion for Sanctions Under Rule 37(b) For Failure to Comply With Court Order of September 3, 2009, on September 25, Bossier withdrew his motion to expedite a hearing on the matter pending Counsel’s review of the claim files.
JURY TRIAL SET for 11/2/2009, 10:00 A.M., in Courtroom 506, Gulfport, MS, before District Judge L. T. Senter Jr!
Surely, State Farm isn’t trying to delay the trail and set up Bossier’s counsel to take the fall for the delay – but a reading of Bossier’s Reply to State Farm’s Response in Opposition to the Motion for Sanctions certainly makes it seem that way.
State Farm’s admissions, documented in the Exhibits of email correspondence between Counsel for Bossier, Judy Guice, and Counsel for State Farm, Ben Mullins, are as troubling as the omissions documented by Guice.
For example, the Court’s Order, as Guice noted, was for State Farm to produce the claim files of policyholder’s in the court-established area in proximity to the Bossier property. The contents of a policyholder’s claim file are clearly defined in State Farm’s own documents; yet, Mullins states that is not what the Company has been providing in response to other Orders:
Another admission – one that suggests the reasoning behind State Farm’s attempt to limit discovery to claims on property located within 1/10 of a mile of the Bossier property and not the 1/2 mile subsequently ordered by the Court – is revealed in the email exchange documented below:
Defense counsel acknowledged in his correspondence of September 24, 2009, that certain “renewal certificates and declarations pages” were not being produced on that date but would be produced later. It is now October 13, 2009, and the promised “renewal certificates and declarations pages” have not been produced. More substantial omissions from the production have likewise been noted and called to Defendant’s attention. (emphasis added)
Correspondence from Guice to Mullins, Exhibit 7 to Bossier’s Reply, details the more substantial omissions from the production:
Plaintiff has been prejudiced by Defendant’s improper violation of the Court’s order. As showed by defense counsel’s emails, Defendant is in possession of documents, including the activity logs, that explain critical information which cannot be obtained from the limited documents produced. The rules of discovery allow both parties to be armed with the documents that are relevant to issues to be tried.
Oh, and about the vacation days Guice claimed as a costly loss:
Defendant seeks to minimize the prejudice from having to cut short a much needed vacation by doing what State Farm does best – blame the victim. The trip was planned far in advance at a time when it was in no way foreseeable that Plaintiff would have to fight for seven months for documents produced in virtually every Hurricane Katrina case.
State Farm’s practice thus far has been to “suddenly find” whatever has been missing as soon as Guice files a related motion. Will that again be the case? Only time will tell.