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Are Insurance Agreements Discoverable?

The existence of insurance is often key to a lawsuit and one of the first orders of business in discovery. There are statutory provisions allowing for discovery of the existence and contents of insurance agreements—as well as limits on it.

Here are the parameters of insurance discoverability:

Discovery is permitted under CCP §2017.210. California discovery law expressly provides for discovery about insurance agreements under which a carrier may be liable to satisfy all or part of a potential judgment or to indemnify or reimburse payments made to satisfy the judgment. CCP §2017.210. The statute also provides for discovery of whether coverage of the claim involved in the action is disputed. CCP §2017.210. But, because the existence of liability insurance may not be relevant to the underlying subject matter of the action, there’s cautionary language in CCP §2017.210 stating that information about insurance isn’t admissible in evidence at trial by reason of disclosure.

Reinsurance agreements aren’t automatically discoverable under CCP §2017.210. Section 2017.210 doesn’t authorize the discovery of information related to the financial condition of a defendant’s nonparty reinsurer, nor does it authorize the discovery of an insurer’s reinsurance agreements. Instead, the discoverability of reinsurance information rests on the general relevancy standards of CCP §2017.210. Catholic Mut. Relief Soc’y v Superior Court (2007) 42 C4th 358, 363.

Insurance applications aren’t discoverable. Under CCP §§2017.010 and 2031.010, a party can obtain relevant insurance policies in a personal injury action. Irvington-Moore, Inc. v Superior Court (1993) 14 CA4th 733. However, the insurance application isn’t discoverable unless the application is incorporated into the policy.

Existence of a policy isn’t privileged. There’s no privilege under CC §47(b) regarding the existence of an insurance policy. That is, a party may not knowingly conceal the existence of an insurance policy and claim that the existence of such a policy is privileged under CC §47(b). CC §47(b)(3).

Generally there’s no discovery of policy limits before suit is filed. A party doesn’t have the right to discover the insured’s insurance policy limits before an action is filed, unless the requirements of CCP §§2035.010–2035.060, governing discovery before commencement of an action, are met. Griffith v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. (1991) 230 CA3d 59, 69. The filing of a petition to perpetuate testimony or the filing of a lawsuit ensures that a serious claim is being asserted and that the privacy interests of insureds are protected from unwarranted intrusion by third parties.

For discovery of other types of relevant information and the scope of discovery generally, turn to CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice, chap 1. And to learn strategies and techniques for optimizing your written discovery plan, check out CEB’s program Written Discovery Planning, available On Demand.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

2 Responses

  1. Brilliant! I was just arguing with opposing counsel about these issues yesterday but was going to research it today. Once again, Julie Brook comes through!

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