Another Eastern District of Michigan federal court recently granted my motion for discovery in a long term disability insurance ERISA case without requiring a predicate showing.
This time the Court specifically decided that there was no requirement that a predicate showing be made. Instead, the federal rules generally governing discovery should be applied.
Judge Lawson ruled in Price v Hartford (09-14171):
This Court believes that existing rules of procedure provide district courts with means of addressing pretrial discovery issues in ERISA benefits cases so that the interests of economy, efficiency, accuracy, and fairness are all served. Disputes over the scope of discovery in such cases should be addressed in the context of existing rules and the cases interpreting them. No special rules or procedures are necessary or appropriate. However, when determining a discovery dispute, the Court must be mindful that Wilkins instructs courts to decide these cases as actions for review on an administrative record, intended to be expeditious and inexpensive, and must apply the existing rules accordingly.
Ultimately, the Court found Discovery aimed at exploring the defendant’s relationship with and motive for selecting the consultants and evaluators who provided opinions that the plaintiff was not disabled falls with the scope of Rule 26(b). Noted ERISA commentator Mark Debofsky recently discussed this case in detail in a recent Casenote here.