Cook v. Welty, Civ. A. No. 2174-65.

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtEdward L. Genn, Washington, D. C., for the motion
Citation253 F. Supp. 875
PartiesWillie V. COOK, Plaintiff, v. Elizabeth M. WELTY, Defendant.
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 2174-65.
Decision Date11 May 1966

253 F. Supp. 875

Willie V. COOK, Plaintiff,
Elizabeth M. WELTY, Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 2174-65.

United States District Court District of Columbia.

May 11, 1966.

Edward L. Genn, Washington, D. C., for the motion.

Robert E. Anderson, Washington, D. C., opposed.

253 F. Supp. 876

HOLTZOFF, District Judge.

The question presented on this motion is whether the plaintiff in an action for negligence should be entitled to discovery as to the existence of defendant's liability insurance, and the extent and the limitations of its coverage. This Court answers this question in the affirmative.

This action was brought to recover damages for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident. The owner and operator of the vehicle involved in the accident died subsequently to its occurrence, and this suit was instituted against the administratrix of his estate. The defendant's deposition was taken in the plaintiff's behalf. Questions were propounded to the defendant as to what, if any, liability insurance had been carried by the deceased and the limitations and extent of the coverage. She declined to answer on the ground that the queries were irrelevant. The matter is now before this Court on a motion to compel her to respond. It was stipulated at the argument that a similar question would also arise if interrogatories covering the same subject matter had been served.

Whether the plaintiff in an action for negligence may obtain information concerning the defendant's liability insurance by means of appropriate discovery proceedings, has not been determined either in this Circuit or in this District. There are no reported opinions on this point either in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, or in this Court. There appear to be no decisions on this topic by any Court of Appeals in the Federal judicial system. There are, however, numerous decisions in the various District Courts, which are divided on this point.

In the following districts, it has been held that such information may be obtained by discovery: Hawaii, Furumizo v. United States, 33 F.R.D. 18; Western District of Kentucky, Hurt v. Cooper, 175 F.Supp. 712; Montana, Johanek v. Aberle, 27 F.R.D. 272, and Schwentner v. White, 199 F.Supp. 710; New Jersey, Hill v. Greer, 30 F.R.D. 64; Southern District of New York, Orgel v. McCurdy, 8 F.R.D. 585; and Oregon, Hurley v. Schmid, 37 F.R.D. 1.

In the following districts, such discovery has been denied: Eastern District of Illinois, Gallimore v. Dye, 21 F.R.D. 283; Southern District of Illinois, Roembke v. Wisdom, 22 F.R.D. 197; Northern District of Ohio, McDaniel v. Mayle, 30 F.R.D. 399; Eastern District of Pennsylvania, McClure v. Boeger, 105 F.Supp. 612, and the Western District of Pennsylvania, Rosenberger v. Vallejo, 30 F.R.D. 352.

There are two districts in which different judges have reached divergent results. Thus in the Eastern District of Tennessee, such discovery was permitted in Brackett v. Woodall Food Products, Inc., 12 F.R.D. 4; but was disallowed in Cooper v. Stender, 30 F.R.D. 389. In the District of Connecticut, such discovery was granted in Novak v. Good Will Grange No. 127, et al., 28 F.R.D. 394, but barred in Flynn v. Williams, 30 F.R. D. 66, and Langlois v. Allen, 30 F.R.D. 67.

In view of the fact that many States have adopted the Federal Rules, or have promulgated discovery rules similar to Federal provisions on the subject, decisions of State courts on this point are of interest. Such discovery has been allowed in California, Laddon v. Superior Court, 167 Cal.App.2d 391, 334 P.2d 638; in Kentucky, Maddox v. Grauman, 265 S.W.2d 939, 41 A.L.R.2d 964; and in Illinois, People ex rel. Terry v. Fisher, 12 Ill.2d 231, 145 N.E.2d 588. It has been disallowed in Arizona, Di Pietruntonio v. Superior Court, 84 Ariz. 291, 327 P.2d 746; in Delaware, Ruark v. Smith, 1 Storey 420, 147 A.2d 514; in Florida, Brooks v. Owens, 97 So.2d 693; and in Minnesota, Jeppesen v. Swanson, 243 Minn. 547, 68 N.W.2d 649.

The objections to requiring a disclosure of liability insurance are that the purposes of discovery are either to obtain evidence to be introduced at the trial, or to secure information as to where such evidence may be found, or to narrow the issues to be tried. Information concerning liability insurance coverage

253 F. Supp. 877
is irrelevant to any of these topics. On the theory that a liability insurance policy is, in effect, an asset of the defendant, it is argued that discovery might as well be permitted as...

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    • United States
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    • 13 Mayo 1966
  • Washoe County Bd. of School Trustees v. Pirhala
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nevada
    • 2 Enero 1968
    ...v. Fisher, 12 Ill.2d 231, 145 N.E.2d 588 (1957); Pettie v. Superior Court, 167 Cal.App.2d 680, 3 Cal.Rptr. 267 (1960); Cook v. Welty, 253 F.Supp. 875 (D.Colo.1966); Smith v. Superior Court, 189 Cal.App.2d 6, 11 Cal.Rptr. 165, 88 A.L.R.2d 650 (Cal.App.1961); Ellis v. Gilbert, 19 Utah 2d 189,......
  • Fort v. Neal
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    • 9 Septiembre 1968 having support from many able and respected writers, courts and judges. We would particularly note in this category, Cook v. Welty, 253 F.Supp. 875 (D.D.C. 1966); Ash v. Farwell, 37 F.R.D. 553 (D.Kan. 1965); Johanek v. Aberle, 27 F.R.D. 272 (D.Mont. 1961); Lucas v. District Court of Pueb......
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
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    ...Woldum v. Roverud Constr., Inc., 43 F.R.D. 420 (N.D. Iowa 1968); Slomberg v. Pennabaker, 42 F.R.D. 8 (M.D. Pa. 1967); Cook v. Welty, 253 F.Supp. 875 (D.D. C. 1966); Hodges v. Heap, 40 F.R.D. 314 (D.N.D. 1966); Ash v. Farwell, 37 F.R.D. 553 (D.Kan. 1965); Hurley v. Schmid, 37 F.R.D. 1 (D.Ore......
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