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Aronstein v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 29, 2017

JESSE ARONSTEIN, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated Plaintiff,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE CO. and C.M. LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL (Docket No. 76)

          KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jesse Aronstein (“Aronstein”) moves to compel defendants Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company and C.M. Life Insurance Company (collectively referred to herein as “MassMutual”) to provide documents that MassMutual claims are not relevant to the claims asserted in Aronstein's Second Amended Complaint and to produce unredacted copies of documents produced by MassMutual subject to redactions of what the company claims is irrelevant content. For the reasons set forth below, Aronstein's motion to compel is GRANTED.

         I. Allegations in Second Amended Complaint

         The parties are familiar with the facts of the case and of this particular dispute and so the court provides only a brief summary of the background before setting forth its analysis of the parties' discovery disputes. Aronstein is pursuing a putative class action against MassMutual (Dkt. No. 56 at 1, ¶ 1). He seeks to represent a class of individuals who purchased Odyssey Annuity contracts from MassMutual with a minimum guaranteed interest rate (“MGIR”) lower than the rate advertised by MassMutual (id.). Aronstein has agreed to limit the putative class to purchasers in the state of New York where Aronstein is domiciled. He alleges that he purchased a “MassMutual Odyssey: A Fixed Annuity Product” (“Odyssey Annuity”) on or around January 7, 2004 at a time when MassMutual falsely advertised the Odessey Annuity as providing an MGIR of 3% in written marketing materials (id. at 6, ¶¶ 19-21). When Aronstein received the Odyssey Annuity Contract/Certificate package, it included a certificate schedule, which represented that Aronstein was guaranteed an MGIR of 3% (Dkt. 56-3 at 5). The package also contained a one-page guaranteed interest rate endorsement which stated that the MGIR had been changed to 1.5% (id. at 23).

         From 2004 through 2015, Aronstein periodically received statements from MassMutual which included a record of the total interest earned during the statement period. The statements did not set forth the rate at which interest was being paid (Dkt. No. 56 at 11, ¶ 44). In January 2015, Aronstein received the annual statement for 2014. He calculated the rate at which interest had been paid in 2014 and discovered that the rate was about 2% (id., ¶ 45). MassMutual responded to Aronstein's resulting inquiry by disclosing that Aronstein had received an interest rate of less than 3% starting in 2011 and justifying the rate at which interest had been paid by reference to the guaranteed interest rate endorsement (id. at 11-12, ¶ 48).

         In Aronstein's second amended complaint, he asserts claims of fraud in the inducement (Count I); Violation of New York General Business Law § 349 (Count II); Violation of New York General Business Law § 350 (Count III); and Breach of Contract (Count IV) (Dkt. No. 56 at 15-20).

         II. Background Relevant to Discovery Dispute

         In MassMutual's answers to interrogatories, the company represented that it used the structure about which Aronstein complains - marketing materials and a certificate schedule indicating a 3% MGIR and a guaranteed interest rate endorsement purporting to decrease the MGIR - from January 2004 through May 2005 (Dkt. No. 79 at 3). In responding to Aronstein's discovery requests, MassMutual takes the position that the only documents that are within the realm of relevant information for discovery purposes are documents concerning Odyssey Annuity products sold in New York from January 2004 through May 2005. On this basis it has declined to produce documents responsive to the following documents production requests served by Aronstein:

(1) [O]ne form Odyssey annuity contract representative of each instance in which the . . . MGIR was changed in New York between 2005 and 2008; and for any MGIR change to the Odyssey in New York between 2005 and 2008, all documents and correspondence relating to that change in the MGIR; and
(2) [O]ne form non-Odyssey annuity contract representative of each instance in which the MGIR was changed in New York between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2008; and for any MGIR change to any non-Odyssey annuity in New York between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2008, all documents and correspondence relating to that change in the MGIR; and
(3) [A]ll documents MassMutual previously produced in redacted form in unredacted form.

(Dkt. No. 76 at 1-2).

         III. Analysis

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) provides, in ...


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