Court Holds Informal Requests Sufficient for Meet and Confer Requirement
Gade v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Case No. 14-00048 (D. Vermont, June 6, 2016) is a personal injury case involving two motor vehicle accidents which occurred one year apart. Plaintiff sued Defendant after her uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits claims were denied. During discovery, Defendant deposed Plaintiff’s biomechanical expert, requesting the expert bring his files to the deposition but not examining the files before or during the deposition. The Defendant then made request for a complete copy of the expert’s file, including his calculations. A copy of the file was produced thereafter, which included eight pages of data and calculations in PDF format. Defendant did not find the production adequate and requested the file in Excel format, which Plaintiff agreed to produce if they existed as such. Defendant continued to ask for the files in Excel, but Plaintiff eventually responded that she would not produce them, stating that the expert’s calculations and formulas had been produced in PDF previously. Defendant filed a motion to compel, which Plaintiff opposed. Ultimately, the parties agreed that the motion to compel was moot. Plaintiff then sought compensation from Defendant for her attorneys’ fees incurred in opposing the motion, alleging that Defendant did not properly meet and confer as required by the rules.
As an initial matter, the court found that Plaintiff had properly complied with the rules for disclosure of expert witness material and that Defendant properly withdrew its motion to compel. The court then found that Defendant’s repeated informal requests for the Excel files was sufficient to establish “meet and confer,” even though Defendant may have been better served by providing a formal request.
With regard to payment of Plaintiff’s fees, the court looked at FRCP 37, which requires that a moving party whose motion to compel is denied must pay the reasonable expenses incurred by the prevailing party in opposing the motion. The court found that both parties acted in good faith and that no one engaged in “willful noncompliance.” As a result, the court found that sanctions were not appropriate and denied Plaintiff’s motion for fees.