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Gordon v. Geico Insurance Company

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 20, 2019

GREGORY GORDON, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GEICO INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-18-896355

          Ladi Williams and Tom Merriman, for appellee.

          Williams, Moliterno & Scully Co., L.P.A, and Louis R. Moliterno, for appellant.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          ANITA LASTER MAYS, JUDGE

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant GEICO Insurance Company (AGEICO@) appeals the trial court's decision denying GEICO's motion to stay discovery on plaintiff-appellee Gregory Gordon's (AGordon@) bad faith claim. We dismiss this appeal because it is not a final appealable order.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} On April 8, 2017, Gordon was involved in a car accident and was severely injured. The driver that caused the accident fled the scene and was never identified. Therefore, Gordon filed a claim pursuant to GEICO's Uninsured Driver policy provisions issued to Gordon. Gordon submitted his medical bills and records to GEICO. The bills totaled over $22, 000, and GEICO offered Gordon $12, 156.71. Gordon asked GEICO to revise its offer, and when GEICO refused, Gordon filed suit alleging that GEICO breached its contract with Gordon and engaged in bad faith regarding its evaluation and negotiation of Gordon's claims. Gordon requested punitive damages be awarded.

         {¶ 3} GEICO claims that Gordon does not have medical payments coverage under his policy. GEICO also claims that Gordon never purchased such coverage, and that medical payments coverage is not identified on the declarations page of the policy of insurance issued to Gordon. In response to Gordon's complaint, GEICO filed its answer and a motion with the trial court to bifurcate the bad faith claim and all the discovery related to the bad faith claim. The trial court in its journal entry granted GEICO's motion to bifurcate and stay proceedings related to the bad faith claim, but denied GEICO's motion to stay discovery on Gordon's bad faith claim. GEICO appeals the trial court's decision.

          II. Assignment of Error

         {¶ 4} GEICO assigns one error for our review:

I. The trial court erred to the prejudice of defendant-appellant GEICO in allowing discovery to proceed on all issues, and not staying discovery of the bad faith claim until after resolution of the underlying breach of contract claim.

         III. Final Appealable Order

         {¶ 5} Before we address the assigned error, we must first ascertain whether the trial court's order with regard to the denial of GEICO's motion to stay discovery constitutes a final appealable order. GEICO argues that it does. GEICO relied on our decision in DeVito v. Grange Mut. Cas. Co., 2013-Ohio-3435, 996 N.E.2d 547, & 9 (8th Dist), which states,

At least one court has determined that an order with regard to the discovery of a claims file constitutes a final, appealable order. See Stewart v. Siciliano,2012-Ohio-6123, 985 N.E.2d 226 (11th Dist.). That decision recognized that although discovery issues are generally interlocutory in nature, provisional remedies ordering discovery of privileged material are final and appealable. Id. at & 42, citing Cobb v. Shipman, 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2011-T-0049, 2012-Ohio-1676. We agree and also find that an order denying a stay of discovery with regard to attorney-client communications or work-product documents relating to a bad-faith denial-of-coverage claim meets the requirements of R.C. 2505.02(B)(4). As recognized in Boone [v. Vanliner Ins. Co.,91 Ohio St.3d 209, 744 N.E.2d 154], a stay of disclosure may be necessary pending the outcome of the underlying claim when the court finds that the release of this information will inhibit the insurer's ability to defend on the underlying claim. We find that in such a case, ...

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