In a putative class action alleging that a life insurer engaged in an elaborate scheme to pay stockholders huge dividends by shifting its obligations to reinsurers operating in jurisdictions with weak oversight and dramatically raising the cost of insurance on its universal life insurance policies, a federal magistrate judge in the District of Maryland has found that plaintiffs’ discovery requests went too far, while plaintiffs’ responses to discovery were “miserably deficient.”
Defendant objected to the plaintiffs’ discovery requests on the basis that they sought irrelevant documents regarding varieties of policies other than the universal life insurance policies that named plaintiffs’ owned and that received the COI increases, and the magistrate agreed. Defendant also argued that certain requested documents were protected by a Maryland statutory privilege for documents filed with the state insurance Commissioner. Plaintiffs argued that this statute only prevented the state insurance department from disclosing these documents, but the magistrate disagreed. Noting that the statute provided that such documents “may not be made public by the Commissioner, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or any other person,” and that the defendant clearly was a person as defined by law, the magistrate found that these documents were not discoverable and that defendant must place them on their privilege log.
Defendant also moved to compel responses to its interrogatories and requests for documents. The magistrate found that plaintiffs did not meet their essential obligations in responding to discovery—“answer the questions, provide the documents or in the alternative assert any applicable privilege.” Plaintiffs’ objections to interrogatories regarding the factual basis for the alleged fraud and for damages, including that the requests were “burdensome and annoying” and “premature at this early stage of litigation,” were inadequate, as were references to documents in response to interrogatories. As plaintiffs’ responses were “miserably deficient,” the magistrate ordered plaintiffs to answer the interrogatories, provide the requested documents, and provide a privilege log for any privileged documents.