22 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 1117b
Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2210RODR
Insurance — Discovery — Claim file — Error to require insurer to produce various documents from claim file in declaratory relief and breach of contract case not involving bad faith claim
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Petitioner, v. FLORIDA WELLNESS & REHABILITATION CENTER OF SOUTH MIAMI, LLC. a/a/o HILDA RODRIGUEZ, Respondent. Circuit Court, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 14-249 AP. L.T. Case No. 13-009497 CC 25. April 30, 2015. On Appeal from the County Court for Miami-Dade County, Don S. Cohn, Judge. Counsel: Diane H. Tutt, Conroy, Simberg, Ganon, Krevans, Abel, Lurvey, Morrow & Schefer, P.A., for Petitioner. Arturo Dopazo, III, Law Offices of Arturo Dopazo, III, P.A., for Respondent. (Before HERSCH, LUCK, AND MILIAN, JJ.)
(MILIAN, Judge.) State Farm seeks certiorari review of a non-final order requiring production of various documents from its claim file in a declaratory relief and breach of contract case with no bad faith claims. The issue on appeal is whether the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law by compelling production of certain insurer claim file materials, including file notes and various documents specific to the handling of the Assignee’s individual claim.
Where a petitioner seeks appellate relief from a trial court’s interlocutory discovery order, the petition must pass a three-prong test establishing: (1) a departure from the essential requirements of the law, (2) resulting in material injury for the remainder of trial, (3) that cannot be corrected on post judgment appeal.” Barker v. Barker, 909 So. 2d 333, 336 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly D1655a]. For reasons discussed in more detail below, State Farm’s petition satisfies this test.
In cases that do not involve bad faith claims, the contents of an insurance claim file are generally not subject to discovery because they are either irrelevant, protected by the work product privilege, or both. Allstate Indemnity Co. v. Ruiz, 899 So. 2d 1121, 1123 (Fla. 2005) [30 Fla. L. Weekly S219c], Castle Key Ins. Co. v. Benitez, 124 So. 3d 379 (Fla. 3d DCA 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly D2226a], State Farm Florida Ins. Co. v. Aloni, 101 So. 3d 412 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) [37 Fla. L. Weekly D1701b], Seminole Cas. Ins. Co. v. Mastrominas, 6 So. 3d 1256 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009) [34 Fla. L. Weekly D559b], Gov’t Employees Ins. Co. v. Rodriguez, 960 So. 2d 794 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly D1514a].
In Castle Key Ins. Co. v. Benitez, 124 So. 3d 379 (Fla. 3d DCA 2013) [38 Fla. L. Weekly D2226a], the Court provided guidance on what types of cases lend toward protecting the claim file from discovery, and what types of claim file documents are entitled to protection. The Court determined that “[i]n considering objections to discovery requests for claims file materials, the ‘determinative issue’ is ‘what type of action’ the insured has brought.” Castle Key, 124 So. 2d at 380. Where a plaintiff seeks relief for breach of contract, a trial court departs from the essential requirements of the law in compelling disclosure of the contents of an insurer’s claim file when the issue of coverage is in dispute. Id. While neither party to the instant petition argues that coverage is disputed in the underlying case, there is no doubt that other substantive issues remain unresolved — namely, breach of contract and declaratory judgment issues.
As to claim file materials entitled to protection, the Court determined that file notes and various documents specific to the handling of an assignee’s claim are not discoverable in non-bad faith cases. Castle Key, 124 So. 3d at 381, n. 1., citing Nationwide Insurance Co. of Florida v. Demmo, 57 So. 3d 982 at 984 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011) [36 Fla. L. Weekly D707a]. A review of the instant claim file confirms that it is comprised of the type of material deemed privileged in Castle Key.
For these reasons, the Petition for Writ of Certiorari is GRANTED. Accordingly, we QUASH the lower court order requiring production of Petitioner’s claim file materials. (HERSCH and LUCK, JJ., concur.)
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