Discovery of Insurer’s Claim File Materials Rejected Based on Work-Product Protections
by Daniel P. Johnston
In a recent decision issued by the Florida Court of Appeal, the appellate court quashed a previous trial court order compelling an insurer to produce its claim file. Family Security Insurance Company v. Stein, 2023 Fla. App. Lexis 822 (February 8, 2023).
The policyholders filed suit against their property insurer for breach of contract over a coverage dispute regarding damages to their home. The insurer denied coverage and contested the claimed damages.
In the course of the litigation, the policyholder served wide-ranging discovery requests on the insurer, including production requests for correspondence and documentation related to the insurer’s anticipation of litigation, as well as inspection reports reflecting the cause of the loss as determined by the insurer. The insurer objected to the production as protected by the work product privilege. The trial court granted the policyholder’s motion to compel the production of the documents, including loss reports, a nonfinal estimate and supporting documentation.
On appeal, the Florida appellate court quashed the trial court order and confirmed that absent good cause or exceptional circumstances, “an insurer’s claim file constitutes work product and is protected from discovery prior to a determination of coverage.” Such discovery rulings reinforce the work product privileges that should be afforded an insurer during its investigation of a claim.
Daniel Johnston is a partner focusing his practice on representing national insurance companies and risk retention groups involved in complex coverage and other commercial disputes, including bad faith actions.