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Willis v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

May 12, 2014

SANDRA WILLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER

MICHAEL T. PARKER, Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Quash Subpoena [73]. Having considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion [73] should be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

In this action, Plaintiff Sandra Willis asserts breach of contract and bad faith claims against Defendant Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") arising from Allstate's denial of Plaintiff's claim for insurance proceeds relating to a house fire on June 14, 2012. (Complaint [1].) During the investigation of the insurance claim, Allstate sought the services of Attorney David Waldrop. Allstate requested that Attorney Waldrop opine on the coverage issues relating to Plaintiff's claim. (Allstate's Brief [74].) On February 19, 2013, Attorney Waldrop provided Allstate a coverage opinion. (Allstate's Brief [74].) After Plaintiff brought this action, Allstate provided Plaintiff a copy of the coverage opinion. (Allstate's Reply [92].) Allstate, however, withheld certain documents which contained communications between Attorney Waldrop and Allstate and listed those documents in a privilege log. (Allstate's Brief [74].)

On February 21, 2014, Allstate designated W. Brian Smith as its expert regarding claims handling. According to Plaintiff, Smith's report states, in pertinent part:

The aforementioned opinion is based on but not limited to the following:
...
Based on information gathered by Allstate and their various experts, it was recommended on the [sic] 2/9/2013 from then counsel David Waldrop to deny the contents of the claim. He also advised the building portion could be denied but the residency laws in according to [sic] Mississippi law are viewed liberally....

(Plaintiff's Response [87].) Additionally, Allstate's Rule 30(b)(6) representatives, Tony Depriest and Brendan Barrett, testified that Allstate's decision to deny Plaintiff's claim for insurance proceeds was based, in part, on Attorney Waldrop's coverage opinion. (Plaintiff's Response [99]: Exs. 1 & 2.)

On April 2, 2014, Plaintiff had a subpoena issued compelling Attorney Waldrop to produce his "entire claim file of Sandra Willis, including any correspondence to and from Allstate and any reports to and from Allstate." (Subpoena [68].) On April 9, 2014, Allstate moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that the sought-after documents are protected by the attorney-client privilege and contain attorney work product. (Allstate's Motion [73].)

Plaintiff responded, arguing that she is entitled to the documents because the protections afforded by the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine were either inapplicable to the documents at issue or waived by Allstate.

ANALYSIS

Attorney-Client Privilege

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 501, state law determines the applicability of a privilege in diversity actions such as the case sub judice. Thus, Mississippi law governs this privilege issue. In Mississippi, the attorney-client privilege is defined as the client's right to refuse to disclose and prevent others from "disclosing confidential communications made for the purpose ...


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