Nicholas Malfitano Jan. 27, 2016, 8:48am


PHILADELPHIA – Three businesses that may have relevant information regarding a property insurance case will be required to respond to subpoenas in connection with that same litigation.

Judge Gerald J. Pappert of the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Jan. 19 that Fresh Air Services, Inc., Orlando Remodeling and Teva Landscaping would need to comply with subpoenas to present information in Marcel Groen’s lawsuit against State Farm Fire and Casualty Company.

Groen filed the lawsuit against State Farm in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Aug. 18. Groen averred State Farm breached its own insurance policy when it did not cover damage to his property, incurred as the result of a frozen pipe. State Farm removed the case to federal court on Sept. 16.

Before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania were subpoenas for Fresh Air Services, Orlando Remodeling and Teva Landscaping to produce “documents including but not limited to invoices, receipts, copies of checks and proposals” relating to Groen and his property in Elkins Park.

Court records indicate the subpoenas were served upon each business on Oct. 6, 2015. Though State Farm sent letters by both certified and regular mail to each business requesting compliance with the subpoenas on Oct. 28, to date none of the businesses involved have complied with the subpoenas or responded to them.

In his analysis, Pappert pointed to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 as providing the guidelines “by which non-parties can be subpoenaed to give testimony and/or produce documents relevant to a pending matter.”

“Rule 45 additionally requires that ‘a party or attorney responsible for issuing and serving a subpoena must take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense on a person subject to the subpoena,” Pappert said.

“The Rules give federal courts the ability to compel compliance with subpoenas seeking relevant information,” Pappert added.

Pappert said a review of the subpoenas in light of Rule 45’s mandates showed the information sought by State Farm would not be likely to cause undue burden or expense.

“The subpoenas were properly served in accordance with Rule 45. The long-standing interpretation of Rule 45 has been that personal service of subpoenas is required,” Pappert said.

Pappert said though it was not apparent what exact work Fresh Air Services, Orlando Remodeling and Teva Landscaping performed on Groen’s property, State Farm is likely seeking information related to any of that same work, along with any pertinent connection to the frozen pipe which allegedly caused the damage named in Groen’s suit.

Pappert stated that information “may be relevant to whether Groen’s insurance policy with State Farm covers or excludes the property damage”, a key inquiry in this litigation.

“Having failed to respond to either the subpoenas or the motions, it is not apparent how complying with the subpoenas would cause an undue burden or expense,” Pappert said. “The material sought is information kept in the ordinary course of business, directly relevant to the work performed on Groen’s property and likely relevant to an essential aspect of the case. The motions are accordingly granted.”

The plaintiff was represented by Joseph A. Zenstein and Steven C. Feinstein of Claims Worldwide, in Warminster.

The defendant was represented by Yolanda Konopacka DeSipio of Bennett Bricklin & Saltzburg, in Blue Bell.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-05161

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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