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S.D. Ind.: Motions to Compel Discovery

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  • S.D. Ind.: Motions to Compel Discovery

    In new case from the Southern District of Indiana, the court walked through the Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery and breaks it into five separate issues. Of these five, the most relevant are whether the Plaintiff waived discovery or if the Defendants waived their objection, and the necessary showing for conflicts discovery. Beginning with the first point, the court held:

    The parties appeared for a telephonic status conference to discuss the Case Management Plan. At this conference, the parties disputed whether discovery is appropriate in this matter. Following the conference, the Court issued a preliminary finding: “The Court finds no basis for discovery, though [Allen] may serve discovery and file a motion to compel if [Allen] truly believes discovery is permitted. [Allen] should carefully consider binding precedent limiting discovery in these cases.”
    The Court later held another telephonic conference on the issue of discovery. In this conference, Allen did not persuade the Court that she is entitled to discovery. However, the Court again extended permission for Allen to file a motion to compel, setting an October 24, 2017, deadline. Allen has exercised her right as provided in the Court’s orders to serve discovery and file a motion to compel.
    The court then moved to the issue of what is necessary for conflicts discovery. The court notes that both parties relied heavily on Semien v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am. However, the court also points out that the Seventh Circuit has previously articulated the rule for conflicts discovery:

    In Semien, this Court held “that discovery in a case challenging the benefits determination of plan administrators is permissible only in ‘exceptional’ circumstances ... in which the claimant can ‘identify a specific conflict of interest or instance of misconduct’ and ‘make a prima facie showing that there is good cause to believe limited discovery will reveal a procedural defect.’ ” Dennison v. MONY Life Ret. Income Sec. Plan for Emps., 710 F.3d 741, 746 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Semien, 436 F.3d at 815). However, following the Supreme
    Court's decision in Glenn, we recognized “a softening, but not a rejection, of the standard announced in Semien.” Dennison, 710 F.3d at 747. “[C]onflicts are but one factor among many that a reviewing judge must take into account.” Glenn, 554 U.S. at 116, 128 S.Ct. 2343. “It is thus not the existence of a conflict of interest—which is a given in almost all ERISA cases—but the gravity of the conflict, as inferred from the circumstances, that is critical.” Marrs v. Motorola, Inc., 577 F.3d 783, 789 (7th Cir. 2009). Conflicts “carry less weight when the insurer took active steps to reduce potential bias and to promote accuracy.” Raybourne v. Cigna Life Ins. Co. of New York, 700 F.3d 1076, 1082 (7th Cir. 2012).
    As it relates to the case at hand, the court found that:
    Allen does not meet the standard. Defendants reduced the “weight” of any conflict of interest by utilizing an independent medical evaluation. [Filing No. 29-5, at ECF pp. 1–10.] Further, Allen’s “evidence” provides little weight to her argument. In short, Allen asserts the EBC erred in three ways,2 and these errors together show that Defendants must have let their concerns about payments override their concerns about fair administration. This argument would require the Court to decide if some of the EBC’s findings or methods were erroneous, which would turn arbitrary and capricious review into a de novo reconsideration of Allen’s claimed disability. And even if the EBC did err, Allen’s only suggestion that the errors were the result of a conflict of interest is that Defendants paid Allen disability benefits for eight years before terminating them, allegedly without any showing of improvement. Allen fails to satisfy Semien as softened by Glenn.
    Ultimately, the court denied the Plaintiff's motion to compel, but required the Defendant to confirm that the administrative record was complete, or supplement any missing components within 14 days. The opinion is attached below.
    Attached Files