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Symetra Life Insurance Company v. JJK 2016 Insurance Trust

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 7, 2019

SYMETRA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
JJK 2016 INSURANCE TRUST, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ZAHID N. QURAISHI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This discovery dispute comes before the Court via a series of informal letters submitted by the parties. (See Pl.'s Sept. 13, 2019, Letter ("PL"), ECF 17; Def.'s Sept. 13, 2019, Letter ("DL"), ECF 18; Pl.'s Sept. 20, 2019, Resp. Letter ("PRL"), ECF 19; Def.'s Sept. 20, 2019, Resp. Letter ("DRL"), ECF 20.) Plaintiff Symetra Life Insurance Company ("Symetra") seeks the production of several emails, identified as JJK0001536, JJK0001539, JJK0001542, as well as emails identified on Defendant JJK 2016 Insurance Trust's ("the Trust") privilege log as documents 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10-15, and 34. (DL 1-2.) The Trust seeks the production of the redacted portion of a single email identified as SL 004016. (Id. at 5.) The Trust claims the emails in its possession are protected by attorney-client privilege. (Id. at 3.) Symetra claims its email is protected by attorney-client privilege and work product privilege. (PRL 4.) For the reasons detailed below, the Trust's claims of privilege are overruled, and Symetra's claim of privilege is sustained.

         I. ALLEGATIONS

         Symetra issued two insurance policies, insuring the life of Joseph Krivulka ("the Decedent"). (PL 1.) The Trust was named the beneficiary of both. (Id.) Symetra seeks to have the policies declared void ab initio due to alleged misrepresentations by the Decedent. (Id.) In particular, Symetra alleges the Decedent; John Kelley, an insurance broker; and Timothy Soule, Vice President of Operations and Human Resources at Akrimax Pharmaceuticals, LLC, a company owned by the Decedent, knew the Decedent had scheduled a comprehensive medical examination for August 9, 2016, when he, in part, executed the life insurance application on August 5, 2016. (Id. at 1-2; see also DL 3 (identifying the parties to the communications).) The same day as the appointment, Symetra alleges the Decedent asked it to waive the signing of a statement of health without disclosing his appointment. (PL 2.) During the appointment, Symetra claims, the Decedent was "diagnosed with metastic lung disease." (Id.) Symetra further alleges that, before the delivery of the policies or the payment of the first modal premium, the Decedent was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. (Id.)

         II. ISSUE 1: SYMETRA SEEKS EMAILS BETWEEN THE DECEDENT'S EMPLOYEES AND HIS ATTORNEYS

         A. The Emails at Issue

         Symetra is seeking to discover the following:

1. JJK0001536: Two emails, the first of which is from Soule to John Berger (an attorney for the Decedent), copying Lisa Shann ("an assistant at Akrimax"). (PL, Ex. A 1; see also DL 3 (identifying Shann).) The second is an email from Berger to Soule, copying Shann. (PL, Ex. A 1.)
2. JJK0001539: An email from Soule to Berger, copying Shann. (Id. at 2.)
3. JJK0001542: Three emails between Soule and Berger on which Shann is copied. (Id. at 3.)
4. Doc. 1: An email chain between Berger and Soule, copying Michael Lerner (attorney for the Decedent). (PL, Ex. E 2.)
5. Doc. 2: Email chain between Berger, Soule, and Lerner. (Id.)
6. Doc. 4: An email from Soule to Berger. (Id. at 3.)
7. Doc. 6: An email chain between Banacky (legal secretary), Berger, Lerner, Lori Amick (paralegal) and Soule. (Id.; see also DL 4 (identifying Amick)).
8. Doc. 8: An email from Soule to Lerner, copying the Decedent, Berger, and Keith Lavan (Akrimax's Vice President of Financial Operations). (PL, Ex. E 3; see also DL 3 (identifying Lavan).)
9. Doc. 10: An email from Lerner to Lavan, copying Soule and Berger. (PL, Ex. E 3.)
10. Doc. 11: Emails to Lavan from Berger, copying Soule and Lerner. (Id.)
11. Doc. 12: An email between Lerner and Soule, copying Lavan ...

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