Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Costa v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

April 5, 2018

LORI COSTA, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          THOMAS B. SMITH United States Magistrate Judge.

         This case comes before the Court without a hearing on the following motions papers:

• Defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's Motion to Compel Production of Documents from Beachside Legal Services, P.L.L.C. f/k/a Turner & Costa P.L. (Doc. 55);
• Non-Party's Objection and Response to Defendant Metlife's Motion to Compel Production of Documents from Beachside Legal Services, P.L.L.C. f/k/a Turner & Costa P.L. (Doc. 59);
• Metlife's Motion to Overrule Non-Parties Beachside Legal Services, P.L.L.C.'s and Scott A. Turner's Objections to Metlife's Subpoena to Produce Documents, Information or Objects in a Civil Action and Compel Production of Documents from Leslie A. McElhinney, CPA, P.A. (Doc. 60); and
• Non-Party's Response to Defendant Metlife's Motion to Overrule Non-Parties Beachside Legal Services, P.L.L.C.'s and Scott A. Turner's Objections to Metlife's Subpoena to Produce Documents, Information or Objects in a Civil Action and Compel Production of Documents from Leslie A. McElhinney, CPA, P.A. (Doc. 61).

         Plaintiff Lori Costa is a lawyer (Doc. 1, ¶ 6). She began working for attorney Scott Turner in October 2007, and in 2010, she became a partner in the firm, which at some point, changed its name to Turner & Costa P.L. (Doc. 55-3 at 3, 5; Doc. 59-1, ¶ 9). In 2010, Costa began having issues with her balance, speech, coordination, fatigue and weakness (Doc. 2, ¶ 7). By 2015 she was experiencing cognitive problems including processing errors, difficulty concentrating and dizziness (Id., ¶ 8). Costa's treating neurologist opined that her symptoms suggested Multiple Sclerosis (Id., ¶ 10). Costa claims that her condition forced her to stop practicing law in September 2015 (Id., ¶ 11). Costa has disability insurance through Metlife and in October 2015, she made a claim for benefits under the policy (Id., ¶¶ 3, 13).

         In April 2016, Turner sent an email to all firm employees informing them that Costa would not be returning to work and that the name of the firm would be changing (Doc. 55-4). He also submitted Articles of Amendment to the Florida Division of Corporations to document the change in the firm name from Turner & Costa, P.L. to Beachside Legal Services P.L.L.C. (Doc. 55-5). The Articles of Amendment show the removal of Costa as a manager of the company (Id.).

         Metlife denied coverage and in March 2017, Costa filed this lawsuit in state court alleging breach of the policy and violation of Fla. Stat. § 624.155 (Doc. 2). Metlife removed the case to this Court based upon diversity jurisdiction (Doc. 1), and filed an answer denying liability (Doc. 24). The only affirmative defense Metlife has pled is failure to state a cause of action for which relief can be granted (Doc. 24).

         During her August 2017 deposition, Costa was asked about the financial performance of Turner & Costa and her own compensation while working at the firm (Doc. 55-3). Costa testified that in 2012, she received 21.77 percent of the firm's profits; in 2013, she received 19.77 percent of the profits; and in 2014, despite billing 2, 600 hours, she received 1.5 percent of the firm profits (Id., at 10-11, 14). Costa explained that the 2014 decrease in her compensation was due to Turner's need for money to settle an Internal Revenue Service claim (Id., at 13). Based on this information, Metlife suggests Costa had a non-medical reason for leaving Turner & Costa, i.e., that the firm was having financial problems (Doc. 60 at 4-5).

         In October 2017, Metlife subpoenaed documents concerning Costa, Turner & Costa, and other entities from Leslie A. McElhinney, CPA, P.A. (Doc. 60-1). Apparently, McElhinney has provided accounting services to Turner & Costa and Beachside Legal (Doc. 61). The Court is unaware of any objection by McElhinney to the subpoena. However, Beachside Legal and Turner did file a timely objection (Doc. 60-3).

         In January 2018, Metlife subpoenaed Beachside Legal for a deposition duces tecum (Doc. 55 at 3). Beachside Legal responded by producing 28 pages of information and otherwise objected to the subpoena (Id.). The day before the deposition was scheduled to occur, it was cancelled by Metlife (Doc. 59 at 2).

         Now, Metlife seeks an order compelling Beachside Legal to produce certain documents and information, and an order overruling Beachside Legal and Turner's objections to the subpoena served on McElhinney (Docs. 55, 60). Beachside Legal and Turner oppose both motions (Docs. 59, 61). McElhinney has not appeared in the case.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 provides that parties may issue subpoenas commanding non-parties to, inter alia, produce documents, and appear and testify at depositions. The scope of discovery under Rule 45 is the same as the scope of discovery under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26. Baptiste v. Ctrs., Inc., No. 5:13-civ-71-Oc-22PRL, 2013 WL 3196758, at *2 (M.D. Fla. June 21, 2013); see also Chambers v. Sygma Network, Inc., No. 6:12-cv-1802-Orl-37TBS, 2013 WL 1775046, at *3 (M.D. Fla. April 25, 2013) (quoting Rule 26(b)(1) and applying to a Rule 45 subpoena dispute); Madeline LLC v. Street, No. 09-80705-MC, 2009 WL 1563526, at *1 (S.D. Fla. June 3, 2009) ("Rule 45 must be read in conjunction with [Rule] 26, because the latter rule 'clearly defines the scope of discovery for all discovery devices.'") (citations omitted). Under Rule 26, unless the Court enters an order limiting discovery,

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

         On a motion to compel, the party desiring to enforce a subpoena bears the burden of demonstrating that the information it seeks is relevant. Fadalla v. Life Auto. Prods., Inc., 258 F.R.D. 501, 504 (M.D. Fla. 2007); Connectus LLC v. Ampush Media, Inc., No. 8:16-mc-00159-VMC-JSS, 2017 WL 385758, *2 (M.D. Fla Jan. 27, 2017). Rule 26's requirement that discovery be relevant “‘signals to the court that it has the authority to confine discovery to the claims and defenses asserted in the pleadings, and signals to the parties that they have no entitlement to discovery to develop new claims or defenses that are not already identified in the pleadings.'” Builders Flooring Connection, LLC v. Brown Chambless Architects, No. 2:11CV373-MHT, 2014 WL 1765102, at *1 (M.D. Ala. May 1, 2014) (quoting GAP Report of Advisory Committee to 2000 amendments to Rule 26). “As the Advisory Committee Notes ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.