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D'Amico v. A.O. Smith Corp.

Superior Court of Rhode Island

July 6, 2017

SHIRLEY D'AMICO, Individually and as Executrix for the ESTATE OF FRANK D'AMICO, Plaintiff,
v.
A.O. SMITH CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

         Providence County Superior Court.

          For Plaintiff: Vincent L. Greene, IV, Esq.; Robert J. McConnell, Esq.; Donald A. Migliori, Esq.

          For Defendant: Brian D. Gross, Esq.; Andrew R. McConville, Esq.

          DECISION

          GIBNEY, P.J.

         The Defendant-Grover S. Wormer Company (the Defendant or Grover Wormer) and Plaintiff Shirley D'Amico (the Plaintiff) presented oral argument before this Court on June 26, 2017. At that hearing, the Defendant brought its motion for summary judgment under Super. R. Civ. P. 56, but the parties also provided argument regarding discovery issues. The Plaintiff moved the Court to compel discovery regarding Defendant's insurer, who retained defense counsel to bring and argue the motion for summary judgment originally before the Court. Since a critical portion of the arguments related to discovery issues, this Court will treat the arguments as a Motion to Compel pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 37.

         I

         Parties' Arguments

         The Plaintiff asks this Court to compel the name and information of Defendant's insurer-an insurer that retained counsel in order to bring and argue a motion for summary judgment. The Plaintiff contends that such information is necessary for the Plaintiff to assess whether or not a valid, direct claim exists against the insurer. Further, the Plaintiff maintains that such information is needed for her to properly brief arguments regarding potential liability of the insurer and whether such a claim against the insurer of a dissolved company is allowed under Rhode Island law.

         On oral argument, defense counsel stated that he was retained by the unnamed insurer to bring a motion for summary judgment on Grover Wormer's behalf. Defense counsel maintains that the Plaintiff's request to compel the information of the insurer should be denied because such discovery is irrelevant and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Further, defense counsel argues that Plaintiff's direct claims against the insurer are not legally tenable under Rhode Island law and therefore, the request for the name and information of said insurer should be denied.

         II

         Standard of Review

         The trial court is afforded broad discretion in handling discovery requests. Pastore v. Samson, 900 A.2d 1067, 1073-74 (R.I. 2006) (citing Cullen v. Town Council of Lincoln, 850 A.2d 900, 903 (R.I. 2004)). Underlying our discovery rules is the philosophy that "prior to trial, all data relevant to the pending controversy should be disclosed unless the data is privileged." Cabral v. Arruda, 556 A.2d 47, 48 (R.I. 1989) (citing 8 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, Civil § 2001 at 15 (1970)). Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) states that, in general, the scope of discovery should be limited to matters "relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action[.]" Super. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Additionally, Rule 26(b)(1) states that "[i]t is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." See id.

         III

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