Insurance company does not have to reveal everything plaintiff requests.

On September 9, 2010, the plaintiff sued his employer and the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier for not providing him with all the benefits to which he was entitled under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Specifically, the plaintiff asserted that the defendants had not authorized back surgery recommended by his authorized treating physician. The plaintiff also asserted that the defendants had committed the tort of outrage because their refusal to provide the back surgery was so outrageous in character and so extreme in nature as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and was atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.

As part of discovery, the plaintiff asked the insurance company to provide—

  1. Information about any other litigation involving tort-of-outrage claims in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee.
  2. Personnel files of all insurance-company employees who handled his claim, including résumés, continuing-education records, licenses, certificates, complaints, and reprimands.
  3. Policy and procedure manuals about the peer-review process of the insurance company.

The Mobile County Circuit Court granted these discovery requests, and the insurance company appealed this decision to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. The insurance company maintained that the discovery requests were overly broad and not relevant to the plaintiff’s claims.

The appeals court ruled that—

  1. The information about other litigation involving tort-of-outrage claims should be limited to those cases that have occurred in Alabama, not the other states.
  2. Personnel files did not have to be provided unless the information was clearly relevant and the information was not otherwise available to the plaintiff. The court limited the discovery to information about (1) handling the plaintiff’s claim; (2) training for assessing medical necessity or denying workers’ compensation claims; and (3) incentives, awards, or the like that related to denying workers’ compensation benefits. The court ordered that the circuit court review the personnel files before release so that irrelevant, sensitive, confidential, or private information could be redacted.
  3. Since the manuals might contain information that would show that the insurance company followed policies and procedures contrary to Alabama law, they had to be provided to the plaintiff.

Accordingly, the appeals court ordered the circuit court to revise its discovery order to conform to the decision of the appeals court. See Ex Parte Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, decided on March 16, 2012.

Published April 16, 2012 Posted in News About the Law
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