Insurance Adjuster Notes Protected as Work Product in PIP Case

In an October 15, 2013 decision, the Florida 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that notes from appellant State Farm’s insurance adjuster were protected under the work product privilege.

On July 29, 2008, State Farm was notified of a claim for PIP benefits by South Miami Health Center.  The documents at issue were those notes made by the adjuster from that date until September 17, 2008. The trial court had compelled production of these documents from the adjuster; the Appellate Court here quashed this order, determining that an improper legal standard was applied and that production would cause irreparable harm to appellant.  The Appellate Court indicated that the correct standard to apply in Florida is that discovery of claims file documents is prohibited absent a bad faith issue.

Here, the underlying case involved breach of contract and/or coverage—not bad faith—and the Court determined that there should therefore normally be “automatic work product protection.” Reviewing the issue of the documents’ discoverability de novo, the Court concluded that the documents at issue were entitled to work product protection, and the motion to compel was quashed.

Furthermore, in discussing that the work product privilege only applies to materials obtained or developed in anticipation of litigation, the court was persuaded that, in today’s litigious society, the term “anticipation of litigation” should be broadly construed.

The case was remanded to the trial court.

Click on the link to read the ruling in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. vs. South Miami Health Center, No. 12-031 AP (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. 2013).

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