Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
STEPHEN LOUKINAS, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of his minor children, Stephen, Jr., Bradyn, Hailey, and Austin Loukinas, JOYCE LOUKINAS, Individually and as Parent and Next Friend of her minor children, Stephen, Jr., Bradyn, Hailey, and Austin Loukinas, BRADYN LOUKINAS, HAILEY LOUKINAS, AUSTIN LOUKINAS, and STEPHEN LOUKINAS, JR., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.
Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Trial No. A-1504183
Appealed From Is: Affirmed in Part and Reversed in Part
Vollman & Friedmann and Mark C. Vollman, for
Gallagher, Gams, Pryor, Tallan & Littrell L.L.P., Mark H.
Gams and James R. Gallagher, for Defendant-Appellant.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State
Farm") appeals the trial court's order granting in
part the motion to compel discovery by the
plaintiffs-appellees in their action for a declaratory
judgment, breach of contract, and bad-faith handling of their
Plaintiff-appellee Stephen Loukinas was injured in an
automobile accident with an uninsured motorist on January 12,
2010. On January 4, 2013, Loukinas and his wife Joyce
Loukinas, individually and on behalf of their four children,
initiated a declaratory judgment action against State Farm,
Stephen's automobile liability insurance carrier, upon
its refusal to pay his claim for uninsured-motorist coverage.
The plaintiffs dismissed the action without prejudice in
October 2014, and refiled it in August 2015. In the refiled
action, in addition to seeking a declaration of their rights
under the insurance policy, the plaintiffs sought
compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract and
for breach of the duty to act in good faith in handling their
State Farm filed a motion to bifurcate the bad-faith cause of
action and claim for punitive damages (what it termed the
"non-contractual claims") from the
declaratory-judgment and breach-of-contract causes of action
(what it termed the "contractual insurance coverage
portion of the case"), and to stay all discovery
regarding the bad-faith and punitive-damages claims until
after the trial of the contractual-insurance-coverage claims.
After the trial court denied the motion, State Farm appealed.
We dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction upon our
determination that the trial court's order denying State
Farm's motion to bifurcate and to stay discovery was not
a final, appealable order. See Loukinas v. State Farm
Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-160311
(Sept. 9, 2016).
Then the plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery of
State Farm's entire claims file and to compel the
depositions of State Farm's claims representatives. State
Farm filed a motion for a protective order regarding its
claims file and the testimony of its claims representatives.
Thereafter, the case was reassigned to another trial judge.
State Farm asked the new trial judge to reconsider the
previous judge's rulings on its motion to bifurcate and
to stay discovery. State Farm provided the plaintiffs a
redacted copy of the claims file as well as a privilege log
that identified the redacted items and the reasons that the
items were redacted. In addition, State Farm gave the trial
court an unredacted copy of the claims file so that it could
conduct an in camera review.
The trial court granted State Farm's motion to bifurcate
the bad-faith claim from the underlying declaratory-judgment
and breach-of-contract claims. The court found that
bifurcation was appropriate because the bad-faith cause of
action hinged upon "an initial determination of
coverage." The court determined that "before a jury
can assess whether State Farm has unfairly evaluated Mr.
Loukinas's claim, purposely delayed processing his claim,
or offered unreasonably low settlements as alleged in the bad
faith cause of action," the issue of coverage must first
After an in camera review, the trial court also granted State
Farm's motion to stay discovery on the bad-faith claim
pending the outcome of the underlying declaratory-judgment
and breach-of-contract claims. The court recognized that
State Farm's ability to defend the underlying claims
would be inhibited by a release of claims file materials
containing privileged or work-product protected materials
related to the bad-faith claim.
The trial court also granted in part and denied in part the
plaintiffs' motion to compel discovery. The court denied
the motion to compel with respect to some of the documents
identified in State Farm's privilege log as being ...