Insurance Corporation of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee

PETITIONER: Insurance Corporation of Ireland, Ltd.
RESPONDENT: Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee
LOCATION: Fort Bragg

DOCKET NO.: 81-440
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 456 US 694 (1982)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 01, 1982

ADVOCATES:
Cloyd R. Mellott - on behalf of the Respondents
Edmund K. Trent - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Insurance Corporation of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1982 in Insurance Corporation of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Insurance Corporation of Ireland against Compagnie des Bauxites.

Mr. Trent, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Edmund K. Trent:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

This case comes before this Court on a cross-petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, brought by the Appellants there, Defendants in the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The pleading in suit was the second count of the complaint by the Plaintiff, the Compagnie des Bauxite de Guinee, a non-Pennsylvania corporation, against a number of Defendants, including the 14 Cross-Petitioners, non-Pennsylvania insurance companies... Indeed, they were non-American insurance companies... on contracts of insurance made in London insuring a risk in Africa.

The Defendants pleaded lack of personal jurisdiction and filed a motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction.

The Plaintiff requested the Defendants to produce their insurance policies covering Pennsylvania insureds, Pennsylvania risks, and emanating from brokers in Pennsylvania.

At the hearing before the district judge on the motion to dismiss and on the Defendants' objections to the request for documents, the counsel for the Defendant insurers, two young people from New York at the time, pointed out to the court that the Defendants did not have copies of their policies in their possession.

The contracts of insurance consisted of for the most part each contract a single piece of paper called a placing slip, where the terms of the risk were summarized in shorthand form, abbreviated form, in accordance with the practice in London.

And so then the district court said, well... oh... the Defendants' counsel said: These are in the hands of about 150 brokers in London.

According to British practice, the broker is not the agent of the insurance company, but the agent of the insured or the prospective insured seeking insurance.

And so the district judge said, request them from the brokers.

New York counsel for the insurers went to England to see what he could find out about these things.

In effect, he undertook to do what the court had ordered him to do.

And he found there that there were about four million files involved in these policies, because the insurers did not have indexes relating to Pennsylvania.

Their indexes were based on large geographical areas.

The continent of North America was the smallest group that they had.

And so he came back and, within the time allowed by the court as extended for 30 days, he filed an affidavit offering to produce all the Defendants' own records, these placing slips, at their places where they were kept in England, mostly in London, and for one of the Defendants in Tel Aviv, where its records were kept.

At the hearing... oh, the Plaintiff then filed a motion to compel, and at the hearing on that motion the district judge said, I'll give you another 60 days to get these policies from the brokers.

Did the district court at that time, Mr. Trent, say where the production should take place?

Edmund K. Trent:

Not expressly, no.

But the request for documents asked for them to be brought to the office of Plaintiff's counsel in Pittsburgh, and it was assumed that that's where they were to be produced.

Is that disputed at all or does everybody agree?

Edmund K. Trent:

I think everyone agrees on that.

There was no specific statement by the court that they should be produced in Pittsburgh, but everyone assumed it because the request for documents said to produce them at the office of Plaintiff's counsel in Pittsburgh.

Counsel, insofar as I was able to determine reading the briefs, the Defendants at trial indicated that that would basically be possible; it was a question of when, not if.

Is that right?

Edmund K. Trent:

To produce in Pittsburgh, you mean?

Well, it would be possible, yes, to bring 4,000, four million files to Pittsburgh.

But as a practical matter I would say no.