Pennsylvania Federal Court Rules Insurance Claims Files are Discoverable and Not Subject to the Work-Product Doctrine
In Smith v Progressive Specialty Insurance Company, the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that an insurer’s claims file can be discoverable in a bad faith case, as information in that file on the insurer’s decision to deny the claim is “relevant or could lead to potentially relevant information.” The Court ordered Progressive to produce all relevant documents from its claim file prepared before it could be reasonably anticipated that the claim would be litigated, finding that the work-product doctrine did not apply.
The Court acknowledged that not everything “prepared by or for the agents of an insurer” is protected by the work product doctrine, and that the doctrine only protects documents prepared in anticipation of litigation. Here, the insurer argued that litigation was anticipated as soon as the insured asserted an underinsured motorist claim. The
Court disagreed, and found that the insurer could not have reasonably anticipated litigation until the insurer’s position and the insured’s position as to the extent of the insured’s damages and lost wages came to “loggerheads.” Accordingly, documents prepared before that time fell outside the scope of the work product