July 31, 2018 Practice Points

Party Lacks Standing to Compel Responses to Discovery Propounded by Another Party

The lesson of this case is simple.

By Andrew M. Toft

The lesson of this case is simple: If a party has not served the discovery on which a motion to compel is based on an opposing party, the party cannot succeed on a motion to compel against the opposing party. MDAdvantage Insurance Company of New Jersey v. Hasiuk, et al., 2018 WL 3328049, USDC, E.D. PA (2018).

MDAdvantage Insurance Co. of New Jersey (MDA) filed a declaratory-judgment action against Dr. Aaron Hasiuk and Bucks County Women’s Healthcare (BCWH). MDA argued that it had no duty to defend or pay damages on behalf of Hasiuk or BCWH in a state-court medical-negligence action filed against Hasiuk or BCWH by Sisco because of material misrepresentations allegedly made by Hasiuk in his application for insurance coverage. Sisco filed two motions to compel, one based on discovery served by Sisco on MDA, and the other based on discovery served by MDA, not Sisco, on Hasiuk and BCWH.

The opinion first discussed the standard of review. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 governs the discovery process, which allows the parties to obtain any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Relevance has been construed broadly to encompass any matter that could bear on, or that could reasonably lead to other matters that could bear on any issue that is or may be in the case. The scope of discovery is broad, but it is not unlimited. Where a party receives evasive or incomplete answers to a discovery request, they are permitted to bring a motion-to-compel disclosure under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. The party resisting disclosure bears the burden of persuasion.

Although the parties did not raise the issue, Sisco’s motion to compel based on discovery served on Hasiuk and BCWH by MDA, not Sisco, raised the question of whether Sisco had standing to move to enforce discovery served by another party. Rule 37(a)(3)(B) provides “[a] party seeking discovery may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.” The court concluded that only the party that propounded the disputed discovery requests has standing to move to compel answers. Sisco was not the propounding party and therefore lacked standing to compel responses from Hasiuk and BCWH under Rule 37. Accordingly, Sisco’s motion to compel responses to discovery propounded by MDA was denied.

 

Andrew M. Toft is an attorney in Denver, Colorado.


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