Bisserier v. Manning, Civ. A. No. 1003-60.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Citation207 F. Supp. 476
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 1003-60.
PartiesGuy BISSERIER, Administrator of the Estate of Andre Bisserier, deceased, Plaintiff, v. John W. MANNING, Jr., Defendant.
Decision Date01 August 1962

207 F. Supp. 476

Guy BISSERIER, Administrator of the Estate of Andre Bisserier, deceased, Plaintiff,
John W. MANNING, Jr., Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 1003-60.

United States District Court D. New Jersey.

August 1, 1962.

Jerome L. Yesko, Paterson, N. J., for plaintiff.

Braff, Litvak & Ertag, by Frederick J. Wortmann, Newark, N. J., for defendant.

AUGELLI, District Judge.

This is an automobile negligence action in which plaintiff seeks to compel defendant to disclose the limits of his liability insurance policy in response to an interrogatory calling for such information.

The authorities throughout the country, both federal and state, appear to be about equally divided on the question as to whether or not disclosure of insurance coverage is a proper subject for discovery in negligence actions. Persuasive arguments have been made in support of each view. Some of the federal cases, pro and con, are listed in footnotes1 and2.

This divergence of views is also to be found in our own Third Circuit. In the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Chief Judge Kirkpatrick, in McClure v. Boeger,

207 F. Supp. 477
105 F.Supp. 612 (1952) denied plaintiff's motion to compel disclosure of defendant's insurance coverage in an action for personal injuries incurred in an automobile collision. In the Western District of Pennsylvania, Chief Judge Gourley, in Rosenberger v. Vallejo, 30 F.R.D. 352 (1962), expressed the view that no hard and fast rule should be applied in determining whether or not there should be a disclosure of insurance limits. He is of the opinion that each case should be considered on its own merits. Thus, where damages are substantial and liability is admitted and the insurance is limited in amount, Judge Gourley would favor disclosure at the very inception of the proceedings. On the other hand, if the issue of liability is hotly contested and the outcome uncertain, Judge Gourley feels it would be better not to permit disclosure of insurance coverage in the early discovery phases of preparation for trial

The first reported case in this District which considered the propriety of permitting disclosure of insurance coverage in a negligence action appears to be Plyler v. Gordon, 25 F.R.D. 170, decided by Judge Hartshorne on March 23, 1960. In that case plaintiff sought answers to questions concerning an insurance policy defendant carried on his tractor involved in the accident. The defendant refused to give the information, contending that the matter of insurance coverage was irrelevant and immaterial to the issues in the case and that such evidence would not be admissible at the trial. Plaintiff countered by saying that with regard to the accident in question it was necessary, in order to maintain the action under New York law, which governed the case, for him to establish that defendant was an independent contractor and not an employee of plaintiff's employer, and that by interrogation as to the insurance held by defendant he might be able to prove that defendant was in fact an independent contractor and not a coemployee. The Court concluded that an examination of defendant's insurance policy might produce information and leads which would help answer the question as to the status of the defendant, and accordingly defendant was directed to answer the questions relating to insurance. It is apparent from a reading of the case that Judge Hartshorne permitted discovery in Plyler solely for the limited purpose of enabling the plaintiff to attempt to establish defendant's status.

The Plyler case was followed in this District by Hill v. Greer, 30 F.R.D. 64, decided by Judge Lane on December 4, 1961. This was an automobile negligence action in which plaintiff sought to compel defendant to disclose his insurance coverage, not for any limited purpose, such as was permitted by Judge Hartshorne in Plyler, but generally to ascertain the amount of liability insurance carried by defendant at the time of the accident. Plaintiff's motion was granted. In his opinion, Judge Lane pointed out that a plaintiff's knowledge of a defendant's insurance coverage permits a more realistic appraisal of the value of a case and undoubtedly leads to settlement of cases that would otherwise go to trial. Thus, if a plaintiff knows that policy limits are low he will, in all probability, offer or accept a settlement of his case within the limits of the coverage even though it may have a higher value. Judge Lane concluded that the policy of encouraging settlements, and the existence of Rule 4:16-2 of the New Jersey Civil Practice Rules,3 justified the granting of plaintiff's motion for insurance disclosure.3a

207 F. Supp. 478

Judge Lane's decision joins that respectable current of authority which holds that in a negligence action involving personal injury, death, or property damage, a plaintiff is entitled to ascertain, under the discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, whether a defendant was covered by liability insurance at the...

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6 cases
  • Thomas v. Oldfield
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • February 2, 2009
    ...Fireworks Mfg. Co., 46 F.R.D. 449, 450 (W.D.Pa.1969); Clauss v. Danker, 264 F.Supp. 246, 249 (S.D.N.Y.1967); Bisserier v. Manning, 207 F.Supp. 476, 479 (D.N.J.1962). Other courts concluded that a defendant's financial information was beyond the scope of Rule 26(b). See, e.g., Langlois v. Al......
  • Fort v. Neal
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • September 9, 1968
    ...or any of the many other arguments advanced, both pro and con. The following language of District Judge Augelli, in Bisserier v. Manning, 207 F.Supp. 476, 479 (D.N.J. 1962), correctly sets forth our 'There can be no doubt that the objectives of the proponents of discovery of insurance cover......
  • Scott v. Krueger
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • March 28, 1972
    ...of books, documents or other tangible items or the identity of persons. Defendant-appellant cites the case of Bisserier v. Manning, (D.C.N.J.1962), 207 F.Supp. 476, and other cases for authority supporting his This court takes judicial notice of the fact that the case at bar was tried befor......
  • Marks v. Thompson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • November 15, 1972
    ...... See Bisserier v. Manning, . Page 315 . Supra. (207 F.Supp. 476 (D.N.J. 1962).) Some note also that facts about a defendant's financial status are not ......
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