DeMoss Rexall Drugs v. Dobson, 26A01-8903-CV-104

Citation540 N.E.2d 655
Decision Date10 July 1989
Docket NumberNo. 26A01-8903-CV-104,26A01-8903-CV-104
PartiesDeMOSS REXALL DRUGS, Robert Malcolm, Appellants, v. Barbara DOBSON, James Dobson, Appellees.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

David L. Clark, Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, Evansville, for appellants.

Gary Brock, Vincennes, for appellees.

ROBERTSON, Judge.

The primary issue we consider in this appeal is whether certain recorded statements taken from representatives of the appellants, DeMoss Rexall Drugs and pharmacist Robert Malcolm (collectively referred to as DeMoss) by DeMoss's insurance carrier are discoverable pursuant to Ind.Rules of Procedure, Trial Rule 26(B).

We affirm the trial court's ruling in favor of discovery.

The appellees, Barbara and James Dobson, alleged in their complaint against DeMoss that on August 14, 1987, Barbara Dobson went to DeMoss to have a prescription for Snythroid filled but the pharmacist gave her Catapres instead. Dobson began experiencing pain and numbness about the jaw and face, consulted a dentist, and discovered that her thyroid level was low. An examination of the medication remaining in the bottle revealed the pharmacy's error.

DeMoss reported the claim to its insurer, Farm Bureau Insurance, on Friday, September 25, 1987. The following Monday, Farm Bureau's claims representative conferred with his supervisor by telephone, advising that they had a potentially difficult claim coming into the office. The claims representative recalled a claim involving Barbara Dobson four to five years earlier and knew that James Dobson had pursued a claim against his employer. Less than two weeks later, on October 5 and 6, 1987, the claims representative obtained the recorded statements which are the subject of this litigation.

Interestingly enough, DeMoss attached to the affidavits supplied in opposition to the Dobson's motion to compel production for in camera inspection the impressions of Farm Bureau's claims representative contained in his initial report. Among other things, the claims representative noted that the claim "will probably end up being a Tuffy;" that according to the pharmacists, Dobson should have known the difference by shape, size, and color; that DeMoss did not know for sure which of four physicians "dispensed" the drug or whether the prescribing physician's initials had been changed in the computer; and, that the claims representative had "this clmt. on a B.I. about 4-5 years ago and Big Problems. Also her husband at that time had a huge claim against his employer. Train ran over his foot and Big Toe." The report also contained the notation "on Dr. Paine's bill--R/O: means rule out Multiple Sclerosis." The Dobsons filed their complaint on April 26, 1988.

We apply an abuse of discretion standard when reviewing trial court rulings on discovery issues. Cigna-INA/Aetna v. Hagerman-Shambaugh (1985), Ind.App., 473 N.E.2d 1033, 1036, trans. denied. An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court reaches a conclusion against the logic and natural inferences to be drawn from the facts of the case. Kaufmann v. Credithrift Financial, Inc. (1984), Ind.App., 465 N.E.2d 207, 210.

As we read DeMoss's argument, DeMoss is challenging the trial court's determination that the statements are discoverable on two bases: (1) that the evidence before the trial court leads solely to the conclusion that the statements constituted work product prepared in anticipation of litigation and not discoverable by reason of T.R. 26(B)(3); and, (2) due to the fact that the statements are those of an insured to insurer this court should afford them the special protection of a privileged communication, rendering them completely undiscoverable by virtue of T.R. 26(B)(1). We will address DeMoss's latter contention first.

Cognizant that evidentiary privileges frustrate the factfinding process by foreclosing the consideration of relevant and material information, the courts of this state have repeatedly and consistently left to the legislature the determination of whether a particular interest is of sufficient importance to society to justify the protection afforded privileged communications and the scope of the protection to be accorded. See Matter of L.J.M. (1985), Ind.App., 473 N.E.2d 637 (urging caseworker-client privilege); Massey v. State (1978), 267 Ind. 504, 371 N.E.2d 703 (probation officer-juvenile); Cissna v. State (1976), 170 Ind.App. 437, 352 N.E.2d 793, trans. denied (parent-child); also, Ernst & Ernst v. Underwriters National Assurance Co. (1978), 178 Ind.App. 77, 381 N.E.2d 897, trans. denied (scope of accountant's statutory privilege); Canfield v. Sandock (1988), Ind.App., 521 N.E.2d 704, trans. pending (physician-patient); Terre Haute Regional Hospital v. Basden (1988), Ind.App., 524 N.E.2d 1306 (communications to peer review committee). As this district noted in Scroggins v. Uniden Corp. of America (1987), Ind.App., 506 N.E.2d 83, 86, trans. denied when urged to recognize a privilege against the production of self-critical analysis, all privileges are statutory in nature in Indiana and their creation is solely the prerogative of the legislature. For that reason and notwithstanding obiter dictum that there may be policy considerations favoring an evidentiary exclusionary rule for communications between an insured and his insurer, see, Snodgrass v. Baize (1980), Ind.App., 405 N.E.2d 48, 54, it is this court's inclination to leave the determination of this state's public policy with respect to an insurer-insured privilege to the General Assembly. 1 The trial court was correct in deferring to the legislature as well.

Having noted that the materials at issue are not privileged, we may turn our attention to the meaning of the phrase "prepared in anticipation of litigation," the prerequisite for work product protection under T.R. 26(B)(3). Four years ago, in Cigna-INA/Aetna v. Hagerman-Shambaugh, supra, this court first addressed the language of T.R. 26(B)(3) as it applies to documents and materials generated by an insurance company. Acknowledging that the difficulty posed in the insurance industry context was in discerning documents prepared by an insurer "in anticipation of litigation" from those prepared in the routine course of the business of investigating and evaluating claims, we adopted the reasoning of those decisions such as Carver v. Allstate Ins. Co. (S.D.Ga.1982), 94 F.R.D. 131 which recognize that there is a point after the filing of a claim when an insurance investigation shifts from mere claim evaluation to anticipation of litigation.

Were we to adopt the position espoused by DeMoss and accord all documents prepared by insurers immunity from discovery, we would uproot the work product privilege from its very purpose. The United States Supreme Court formulated the work product doctrine as a means of insuring the fullest possible knowledge of the issues and facts involved in a case without sacrificing the "wits" of attorneys actively...

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13 cases
  • Terre Haute Regional Hosp., Inc. v. Trueblood
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • October 21, 1992
    ...that privileges are statutory in nature and that it is within the power of the legislature to create them. DeMoss Rexall Drugs v. Dobson (1989), Ind.App., 540 N.E.2d 655, 657; Scroggins v. Uniden Corp. of America (1987), Ind.App., 506 N.E.2d 83, 86. Most privileges were unknown at common la......
  • Terre Haute Regional Hosp., Inc. v. Trueblood
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • October 22, 1991
    ...When reviewing a trial court's ruling pertaining to a discovery issue, we apply an abuse of discretion standard. DeMoss Rexall Drugs v. Dobson (1989), Ind.App., 540 N.E.2d 655. An abuse of discretion regarding a discovery matter occurs when the trial court reaches an erroneous conclusion cl......
  • Richey v. Chappell
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1992
    ...the ordinary course of business. See e.g. Schierenberg v. Howell-Baldwin (1991), Ind.App., 571 N.E.2d 335, 338; DeMoss Rexall Drugs v. Dobson (1989), Ind.App., 540 N.E.2d 655. In these cases, the Court of Appeals has concluded that because the defendant's insurance company did not establish......
  • Hulett v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • April 5, 1990
    ...the rule that privileges are generally statutory. Matter of C.P. (1989) 4th Dist. Ind.App., 543 N.E.2d 410; DeMoss Rexall Drugs v. Dobson (1989) 1st Dist. Ind.App., 540 N.E.2d 655; Scroggins v. Uniden Corp. of America (1989) 1st Dist. Ind.App., 506 N.E.2d 83 trans. denied; Cissna v. State (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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