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Motion to Compel in ERISA Case Denied - AETNA Lacks Integrated Email System

Last week, in Tyll v. Stanley Black & Decker Life Ins. Program, No. 3:17-cv-1591 (VAB), 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190977 (D. Conn. Nov. 8. 2018), Judge Victor A. Bolden denied the Plaintiff's motion to compel further electronic discovery and to produce a 30(b)(6) witness. Tyll brought an action to recover double indemnity benefits and ERISA benefits owed to her for the death of her husband in an airplane accident.

The Defendants' initial production consisted of an administrative record of only 1200 pages. The Plaintiff requested additional discovery, and the Court granted a motion to extend the discovery deadline. One of the defendants, Stanley, performed electronic searches requested by the Plaintiff, but the other defendant, AETNA did not comply with its requests.

Tyll's motion to compel asked the Court to order AETNA to perform a search of its entire email system using just three keywords: "Tyll", "basic annual earnings", and "800178", on the basis of the fact that the administrative record was incomplete. It also sought a 30(b)(6) deposition on how the ERISA administrative record was produced. In ERISA cases there is a presumption that judicial review is limited to the claims administrator's record, unless good cause can be shown that additional evidence should be considered.

Judge Bolden noted that Tyll waited four months before alleging that the record was insufficient. It waited until the eve of an extended discovery deadline to request additional electronic discovery. Far earlier in discovery the "[p]laintiff should have noticed the blank back pages, blurry screen shots, and other copying and scanning issues now at issue". Id. at *10-11. Tyll should have asked questions about AETNA's experts' workflow and compensation using written discovery; and it should have told the Court about deficiencies in the administrative record sooner. Tyll's discovery request was not relevant and proportional under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

The Court agreed with AETNA that a search of its full email system would be unsupported and/or outside the administrative record. Examples submitted by Tyll of the insufficiency of the record would not be resolved by the proposed ESI search. Tyll failed to demonstrate that its proposed search would find AETNA's appeal and claim handling guidelines.

Judge Bolden also found that the 30(b)(6) deposition was not warranted AETNA had previously agreed to an extension of the discovery deadline and additional written discovery in exchange for Tyll's dropping its request for a 30(b)(6) deposition. Written discovery revealed the fact that AETNA had downloaded all documents stored in its electronic claims management system, and that "AETNA does not have an integrated email and/or instant message system and that individual e-mails and instant messages must be scanned into claim files." Id. at *16.

It's interesting that the Court failed to criticize a large insurer like AETNA for not being able to search through its custodians' email archives.

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