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Direnzo Towing and Recovery, Inc. v. Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 2, 2017

DIRENZO TOWING AND RECOVERY, INC. Plaintiff/Counterclaim Defendant



         In its current posture, this is an action against an insurer seeking to establish coverage under an insurance policy. Plaintiff/counterclaim defendant Direnzo Towing and Recovery, Inc. (“Direnzo”) seeks to reach and apply insurance proceeds from Defendant/counterclaimant OOIDA Risk Retention Group, Inc. (“RRG”) for towing, recovery, storage, and property damage remediation services Direnzo allegedly provided in connection with a February 2014 motor vehicle accident involving RRG's insured, Kings Trucking Corp. (“Kings”). See generally Docket #1-1. According to its complaint, Direnzo obtained a default judgment in Worcester County Superior Court against Kings in the amount of $167, 700.95 plus interest and costs. See id. at ¶¶ 46-51; Docket #14 at 2. Direnzo and RRG have advanced competing declaratory judgment claims seeking to resolve whether RRG's insurance contract with Kings (the “insurance contract”) requires RRG to provide indemnity in this action. See Docket #1-1 at 13-14 (Direnzo's complaint); Docket #7 at 10-15 (RRG's counterclaim).

         Now before me by way of referral, see Docket #57; 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), are two requests by Direnzo for leave to file motions to compel discovery from RRG. First, Direnzo seeks to compel RRG to further respond to Direnzo's first set of interrogatories. See Docket #55. Second, Direnzo's seeks further responses to its first set of document requests. See Docket #56. For the reasons that follow, both requests are DENIED without prejudice.[1]

          I. BACKGROUND

         Earlier in this litigation, Direnzo unsuccessfully moved to dismiss RRG's counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment of no coverage for Direnzo's alleged damages as reflected in the Superior Court judgment. See Docket #19; Docket #26. In the District Court's order denying that motion, issued November 29, 2016, the Court instructed the parties to proceed with discovery only as required to prosecute motions for summary judgment on their declaratory judgment claims. Docket #26. That order remains in effect.

         On October 28, 2016, Direnzo served on RRG a First Set of Interrogatories and a First Set of Requests for Production of Documents. Docket #55 at 1; Docket #56 at 1. RRG responded to some interrogatories on January 19, 2017 and to some document requests on February 15, 2017. Docket #55 at 1; Docket #56 at 1. RRG then produced supplemental documents and interrogatory responses on May 26, 2017. Docket #55 at 1; Docket #56 at 1. Direnzo maintains that RRG has responded inadequately to its interrogatories ##1-2 and 4-9 and has improperly failed to respond altogether to interrogatories ##11-13. Docket #55 at 2. As for its document requests, Direnzo asserts that RRG's responses remain deficient as to requests ##1-8, 10-15, 17-27, and 65, and Direnzo accuses RRG of wrongfully offering no response at all to requests ##9, 16, 28-64, and 66-67. Docket #56 at 2. Because I find Direnzo's arguments for compelling this discovery legally unpersuasive, I do not recount here the substance of the contested interrogatories and document requests, which can be found in the parties' filings. See Docket #55-2 at 5-8 (interrogatories); Docket #56-2 at 5-12 (document requests); see also Docket #60 at 5-8 (RRG's summary of the contested document requests).

         Direnzo submits that it needs the contested discovery materials

to properly litigate this case and to, among other things, properly assess the reasonableness of [RRG's] investigation of Direnzo's service, to properly assess the reasonableness of [RRG's] policy evaluation and coverage determination, to properly assess whether [RRG's] denial of payment to Direnzo was appropriate and/or lawful, to properly assess the reasonableness of [RRG's] claims handling, and to respond to [RRG's] Motion for Summary Judgment.

Docket #55 at 2; accord Docket #56 at 2. Direnzo's supporting memorandum of law specifies that Direnzo seeks this discovery in order to support two legal arguments: first, “that the [insurance] contract is vague, but the extrinsic evidence is sufficient to determine coverage . . . as a matter of law, ” and second, “that the contract is vague and coverage is a question of fact for a jury to decide.” Docket #66 at 2-3.

         II. STANDARD

The scope of discovery generally extends to: any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). This rule affords the trial court “broad discretion to tailor discovery narrowly and to dictate the sequence of discovery.” Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598 (1998).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Direnzo explains that the contested discovery relates to potential legal arguments regarding the purported ambiguity of RRG's insurance contract with Kings. Specifically, Direnzo argues it needs this discovery to properly advance in its forthcoming summary judgment motion alternative arguments that 1) extrinsic evidence resolves the contract's ambiguity in its favor, and 2) the contract's ambiguity renders the issue of coverage a factual question for a jury. See Docket #66 at 2-3. I conclude that Direnzo's reasoning does not comport with ...

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