Discovery of Claims Handling Guidelines in Montana Bad Faith Litigation

February 24, 2017

Insurers frequently claim that their claims handling guidelines are not “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” This is contrary to law.

Where a plaintiff asserts bad faith claims against an insurer, requests to produce claims handling manuals and guidelines “unquestionably seek information relevant to her bad faith claims.” Trotsky v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 2013 WL 12116153, *3 (W.D. Wash. 2013); see also White Mountain Communities Hosp. Inc. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 2014 WL 6885828, *2 (D. Ariz. 2014)(recognizing that claims handling guidelines are relevant to breach of contract and bad faith claims against an insurer); Stokes v. Life Ins. Of N. America, 2008 WL 2704564, *1 (D. Idaho 2008) (noting that an insurer’s claims handling guidelines and procedures “clearly qualif[y] as discoverable” under Rule 26(b)(1)). The United States District Court for the District of Montana has likewise previously ruled that claims handling materials are relevant to bad faith claims under Montana law. See Moe v. System Transport, Inc., 270 F.R.D. 613, 631 (D. Mont. 2010). 

Whether and to what extent the insurer complied with its own guidelines and policies in the adjustment of the underlying claim speaks to the reasonableness of its investigation and is therefore appropriate fodder for discovery in bad faith litigation.