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William S. Roberts v. the Prudential Insurance Company of America

April 9, 2013

WILLIAM S. ROBERTS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Bartick United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER RESOLVING JOINT MOTION TO DETERMINE DISCOVERY DISPUTE [ECF No. 29]

On April 2, 2013, the parties filed a joint motion for determination of two discovery disputes that the parties have been unable to resolve despite their meet and confer efforts. (ECF No. 29.) First, the parties disagree whether Defendant The Prudential Insurance Company of America ("Prudential") "is entitled to a protective order with regard to (1) portions of its 2009 training manual and (2) the amounts it paid to its third party vendors."

at 2:20-22.) Second, the parties disagree whether Plaintiff William Roberts ("Plaintiff") is entitled to receive supplemental responses from Prudential in response to Plaintiff's Interrogatory Nos. 13 and 14. (Id. at 3:1-2.)

After a thorough review of the parties' arguments and evidence, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court issues the following Order to resolve the issues in dispute.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former litigation partner at the law firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman, & Decker, LLP ("Wilson Elser"), brings this action against Prudential under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. ("ERISA"). Plaintiff alleges that Prudential was the designated claims administrator for a long term disability plan offered by Wilson Elser in which Plaintiff participated. Plaintiff further alleges that, beginning on or about October 7, 2008, he was unable to continue working in his capacity as senior litigator, trial counsel and equity partner due to illness. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was diagnosed by his doctors with fibromyalgia, severe osteoarthritis and depression.

In January 2009, Plaintiff applied for disability benefits under the plan administered by Prudential. During the claims review process, Plaintiff's medical records were reviewed by Dr. Paul Howard of MLS Peer Review Services. Dr. Howard confirmed the fibromyalgia diagnosis but concluded that there was no objective evidence that Plaintiff had difficulty thinking or concentrating such that he could be considered "functionally impaired." Prudential ultimately denied Plaintiff's disability claim based in part on the conclusions of Dr. Howard. Plaintiff now seeks a judicial determination that he is entitled to disability benefits under the plan.*fn1

II. DISCUSSION

Protective Order

As noted above, the parties' first dispute concerns whether Prudential is entitled to a protective order with respect to the production of portions of its 2009 training manual and the amounts paid to its third party vendors. (Id. at 2:20-22.) Prudential has agreed to produce this information to Plaintiff upon the Court's issuance of an appropriate protective order, but Plaintiff contends that the information should not be subject to a protective order.

at 2:22-24, 3:10-12.) "The issue Plaintiff is requesting this court to determine is whether the items sought . . . are confidential, proprietary, and/or sensitive business, personnel, and/or commercial information, and/or trade secrets, and whether prejudice or harm will result to Prudential if produced without a protective order." (Id. at 3:13-17.)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides, in pertinent part, that "[t]he court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, including . . . forbidding the disclosure or discovery . . . [and] forbidding inquiry into certain matters, or limiting the scope of disclosure or discovery into certain matters." FED. R. CIV. P. 26(c)(1)(A), (D). The Court may, for good cause, also issue a protective order "requiring that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a specified way." FED. R. CIV. P. 26(c)(1)(G). The Court must limit discovery if it determines that "the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii). With respect to electronically stored information:

A party need not provide discovery of electronically stored information from sources that the party identifies as not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. On motion to compel discovery or for a protective order, the party from whom discovery is sought must show that the information is not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. If that showing is made, the court may nonetheless order discovery from such sources if the requesting ...


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