United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
DOUGLAS E. ARPERT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on an informal application by
Defendants Electrolux Home Products, Inc.
(“Electrolux”) and Lowe's Home Centers, LLC
(“Lowe's”) to compel Plaintiff New Jersey
Manufacturers Insurance Group (“NJM”) to produce
certain documents requested by Defendants and to produce a
representative for a deposition. See Defendants'
Letter to the Court dated July 20, 2018, ECF No. 27.
Specifically, Defendants served a Second Request for the
Production of Documents as well as a Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition
Notice on June 1, 2018. In short,
[t]he discovery in question seeks:
1. Information on any Complaints filed by Plaintiff alleging
that dryers manufactured and/or sold by Electrolux were
defectively designed and/or were sold with inadequate and/or
2. Discovery with respect to steps taken by Plaintiff to
inform its insureds that Electrolux dryers were defective;
3. The underwriting criteria used by Plaintiff in
underwriting homeowner's insurance policies in homes in
which Electrolux dryers were used.
Id. at 3.
maintain that the information they seek is relevant because
NJM has initiated numerous lawsuits in which it alleges that
Electrolux dryers are defectively designed and carry
inadequate warnings. Moreover, Defendants contend that
Plaintiff's failure to advise its insureds or to account
for the presence of an Electrolux dryer in its underwriting
process is “inconsistent with its core theories”
in this case and that such inconsistency could affect
Plaintiff's credibility with a jury. Id. at 4.
Further, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's failure to
advise its insureds of its opinions concerning Electrolux
dryers and the failure to factor its opinions into the
underwriting process “could be deemed to be comparative
fault/contributory negligence on the part of
responded to Defendants' application in a letter to the
Court, dated August 1, 2018. ECF No. 29. Plaintiff argues
that “the information sought by [Defendants] has no
relevance to the matters at hand … and are merely
fishing expeditions.” Id. at 1. Plaintiff
notes that “this is a subrogation matter, wherein [the
insurer's] rights are derivative of that of their
insured.” Id. Consequently, the case will be
decided based upon the knowledge and actions of the insured
homeowners and not the knowledge, opinions and actions of
their subrogee, NJM. Plaintiff cites several cases in which
Electrolux has made similar applications wherein other
“courts have held that an insurance company cannot be
contributorily negligent for an insured's loss in
subrogation cases.” Id. at 2-4 (citations
uninvited and unauthorized by Local Civil Rule 7.1(d),
Defendants replied to Plaintiff's opposition in a letter,
dated August 6, 2018. ECF No. 30. Defendants' reply
contained no substantive factual information and no legal
citation to contradict Plaintiff's legal arguments.
Plaintiff responded to Defendants' unauthorized reply in
a letter to the Court dated August 7, 2018. ECF No. 31.
Additional correspondence to the Court by Plaintiff and
Defendants, dated August 15 and August 16, 2018 respectively,
were not considered by the Court as such submissions are not
permitted by the Local Rules, and both related to a similar
application which is pending in this District before the
Honorable Tonianne Bongiovanni, U.S.M.J., in the matter of
New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group ao Kristen R.
Mccluskey v. Sears Roebuck and Company, Civil Action No.
facts and procedural history of this matter are well known to
the Court and the parties and, therefore, need not be recited
here. It will suffice to say that NJM brought this action as
subrogee of its insureds, William and Jodi Garrabrants (the
“Garrabrants”), based upon an insurance claim
paid by NJM pursuant to the terms of a homeowners insurance
policy for fire damage allegedly caused by a clothes dryer.
Court has broad discretion in deciding discovery issues, and
it is “well settled that the appropriate scope of
discovery and the management of requests for discovery are
left to the sound discretion of the Court.”
Martinez v. Fuentes, No. 15-2932, 2017 WL 2345703,
at *4 (D.N.J. May 30, 2017). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26 governs the scope of discovery in federal litigation.
Under Rule 26(b)(1), the scope of discovery is quite broad:
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged
matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense
and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the
importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount
in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant
information, the parties' resources, the importance of
the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden
or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely
benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not
be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
26(b)(1). Nevertheless, there are limits to the permissible
scope of discovery. First and foremost, the information
sought must be relevant to any party's claim or defense.
The party seeking to compel discovery bears the initial
burden of establishing the relevance of ...