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Rule 33(b)(4) requires that the ground for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity. Any ground not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the court, for good cause, excuses the failure. The Court has given preliminary consideration to the proportionality of the discovery sought in light of the Rule 26 factors. Nonetheless, as the Court pointed out at the hearing, it is not necessary to definitively resolve the questions of relevance and proportionality at this time.
Plaintiff Hong-Ngoc T Dao purchased supplemental short term and long-term disability insurance through a group policy issued by defendant Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston. In July 2013, plaintiff stopped working due to a reported increase in migraine headaches. He then submitted a claim where he was approved for short-term disability benefits. Plaintiff's leave was extended, defendant then informed plaintiff that it would begin a long-term disability review, but this claim was denied. However, after communication with plaintiff's counsel, defendant reopened the claim and reinstated benefits retroactively. Plaintiff filed suit for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, declaratory relief and unfair competition. The presiding judge granted in part and denied in part, defendant's motion to withdraw its answer and dismiss the complaint and breach of contract claim. The court did not dismiss plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief regarding certain provisions in the policy, including a challenged discretionary clause and a Social Security offset provision. The presiding judge then granted in part a motion for reconsideration, and allowed plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Thereafter the parties met and conferred and narrowed the scope of their dispute to three interrogatories for which defendant refused to provide a response. Apparently, the Social Security Administration has deemed plaintiff disabled and retroactively awarded her benefits. When defendant learned of this during the course of this litigation, it informed plaintiff that her benefits had been overpaid due to a Social Security offset provision in her policy and the overpayment needed to be repaid to them. Plaintiff did not respond thus defendant began reducing plaintiff's benefits payments to recoup the overpayment in accordance with the policy terms. Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint to include additional allegations relating to defendant’s deduction of benefits to offset her Social Security payments. Now before the Court was plaintiff's motion to compel responses to Interrogatories 5, 7 and 10.
Should plaintiff's motion to compel responses to Interrogatories be granted?
The Court denied the motion to compel without prejudice. The Court did not deem defendant’s boilerplate objections as to the interrogatories waived for lacking specificity, but cautions both sides to comply with the requirement set forth in the federal rules that the grounds for objections be stated with specificity. The court further held that it was not necessary to definitively resolve the questions of relevance and proportionality at this time. As the parties agreed that the issue of the Social Security offset provision was a purely legal question upon which the presiding judge has not yet ruled. Thus, the Court suggested that the most efficient course of action was to deny this motion to compel without prejudice, at least until the presiding judge ruled on the legality of the Social Security offset provision, and the parties agreed.