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Watts v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

October 7, 2010

SHEILA WATTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY; SYSTEMS INTEGRATION & MANAGEMENT WELFARE BENEFIT PLAN; SYSTEMS INTEGRATION & MANAGEMENT, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER

The matters before the Court are Plaintiff's Second Application to File Documents Under Seal or, in the Alternative, to Designate Documents as Not Confidential (ECF No. 50) and Defendants' Motion to Maintain Status of Confidential Documents Previously Produced to Plaintiff Under Confidentiality Order (ECF No. 60).

BACKGROUND

On April 20, 2009, Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a Complaint. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff's action arises under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"). Id. at 1. On April 2, 2010, the Magistrate Judge issued an order on the confidentiality of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's ("MetLife") proprietary business information which Plaintiff sought in discovery. (ECF No. 35). The order, which ratifies a stipulation agreed upon by Plaintiff and MetLife, orders that the documents at issue are confidential pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c). Id. at 2. The order states in part:

If any party wishes to use Confidential Information during any motion practice or trial of this action, they will submit such materials under seal, pursuant to the Local Rules of this Court. Documents filed with the Court that are designated Confidential or contain or discuss Confidential Information shall be filed under seal and kept under seal absent a further order of the Court. Where possible, however, only the Confidential portions of filings with the Court shall be filed under seal. . . .

No document shall be filed under seal unless counsel secures a court order allowing the filing of a document under seal. An application to file a document under seal shall be served on opposing counsel, and on the person or entity of the document, if different from opposing counsel. If opposing counsel, or the person or entity who has custody and control of the document, wishes to oppose the application, he/she must contact the chambers of the judge who will rule on the application to notify the judge's staff that an opposition to the application will be filed.

Id. at 2-3.

On June 16, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Application to File Documents Under Seal which was denied on June 24, 2010. (ECF Nos. 42-43). On July 14, 2010, Plaintiff filed her Second Application to File Documents Under Seal or in the Alternative to Designate Documents as Not Confidential. (ECF No. 50). On July 19, 2010, Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's request for alternative relief designating the documents not confidential. (ECF No. 53).

On July 28, 2010, this Court issued an Order and held:

The parties have failed to provide any basis for sealing the documents aside from reference to the Magistrate Judge's order and Defendants' vague assertions that release of the information would 'harm MetLife's competitive advantage in the marketplace.' . . . In the absence of 'compelling reasons,' the Court cannot seal the documents. However, the Court will not grant Plaintiff's requested alternative relief of allowing Plaintiff to file the documents as part of the public record without providing MetLife with an opportunity to meet the burden required to seal the documents at issue. (ECF No. 56 at 4) (citations omitted).

On August 18, 2010, Defendants' filed a Motion to Maintain Status of Confidential Documents Previously Produced to Plaintiff Under Confidentiality Order. (ECF No. 60). Plaintiff did not file an opposition.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff seeks permission to file internal documents related to MetLife's claims processing under seal pursuant to the Magistrate Judge's April 2, 2010 order. (ECF No. 50). In the alternative, Plaintiff requests that the Court make a specific finding that they are not subject to the previous confidentiality order if the Court determines that the documents are not confidential. Id. at 2.

Defendants do not oppose Plaintiff's request to file the documents under seal; however, they object to Plaintiff's proposed alternative relief. (ECF No. 53 at 3). "[D]efendants seek an order extending and maintaining the protected status currently applicable to certain documents and information that were provided to plaintiff in reliance on this Court's Order of Confidentiality . . . in response to a discovery order of January 28, 2010 . . . ." (ECF No. 60-1 at 2) (citations omitted). Defendants contend that Plaintiff's proposed Exhibits 6-8 "reflect and constitute excerpts of zealously guarded ...


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