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Kissing Camels Surgery Center, LLC v. Centura Health Corporation

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 22, 2016

KISSING CAMELS SURGERY CENTER, LLC, CHERRY CREEK SURGERY CENTER, LLC, ARAPAHOE SURGERY CENTER, LLC, and HAMPDEN SURGERY CENTER, LLC, Plaintiffs/Counterclaim Defendants,
v.
CENTURA HEALTH CORPORATION, COLORADO AMBULATORY SURGERY CENTER ASSOCIATION, INC., ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL SERVICE, INC., d/b/a ANTHEM BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF COLORADO, UNITED HEALTHCARE OF COLORADO, INC., and AETNA, INC., Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs. UNITED HEALTHCARE OF COLORADO, INC., Counterclaim-Plaintiff,
v.
SURGCENTER DEVELOPMENT, INC., Counterclaim-Defendant.

ORDER

NINA Y. WANG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs’ Motion To Strike Defendants’ First Set Of Interrogatories And Second Requests For Production Of Documents (“Motion to Strike Discovery”) [#366].[1] This motion is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Order of Reference dated November 19, 2012 [#4], the Reassignment dated February 9, 2015 [#289], and the memorandum dated December 11, 2015 [#369].

With respect to the Motion to Strike Discovery, IT IS ORDERED that the Motion [#366] is GRANTED IN PART, and DENIED IN PART, consistent with the rulings made on the record during the Status Conference. Because of the time constraints of the Status Conference, the Parties and the court were unable to address Plaintiffs’ objections to Defendants’ Requests for Production. Defendants take issue with Plaintiffs’ objection that the Requests for Production were “duplicative of previous discovery requests pursuant to which Plaintiff [sic] produced documents in accordance with search terms agreed to by all parties, ” see e.g., [#366-3 at 29], arguing that Plaintiffs bear the burden of justifying their objection to responding, and therefore, should identify by bates range, responsive documents that have been produced in order to satisfy their discovery obligations. Plaintiffs contend that based on the search terms used, it is clear that documents responsive to the requests have been produced. [Id.]. This court considers Defendants’ Requests for Production, Plaintiffs’ objections, and the Parties’ respective obligations going forward in this Order.

BACKGROUND

The background of this case, and the claims and counterclaims asserted by the various parties and the procedural history of discovery, have been discussed in detail in the court’s prior orders, including the Order Joining SurgCenter as Counterclaim Defendant. See [#375]. While motions to dismiss the counterclaims asserted by United Healthcare Inc. (“United”) are currently pending, see [#346, #379], this court must proceed with overseeing discovery related to those counterclaims until and unless the Honorable William J. Martinez dismisses them. However, as acknowledged by the Parties, the new amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, effective December 1, 2015, refocus the court and the Parties on their respective obligations in discovery.

ANALYSIS

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, noted that the most recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were intended to: (1) encourage greater cooperation among counsel; (2) focus discovery-the process of obtaining information within the control of the opposing party-on what is truly necessary to resolve the case; (3) engage judges in early and active case management; and (4) address serious new problems associated with vast amounts of electronically stored information. 2015 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, http://www.supremecourt.gov/publicinfo/year-end/2015year-endreport.pdf. Each of these four areas is implicated in this second phase of discovery in the instant action. Indeed, in highlighting the amendments in his Year-End Report, Chief Justice Roberts notes that the amendment to Rule 1 underscores that lawyers and the court have an affirmative duty to work together to achieve prompt and efficient resolution of disputes. Id.

As Plaintiffs affirmatively recognize in their Motion to Strike Discovery, the Federal Rules require this court to address issues of proportionality of discovery, and in doing so, this court is guided by the plain language of Rule 26(b)(1). Rule 26(b)(1) requires the court to consider the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative access to relevant information, the parties’ resources, the importance of discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

Recognizing the unique procedural posture of this case, and the duration of its pendency, this court set a status conference within two days of the Honorable William J. Martinez denying the Motions to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, so as to discuss a plan for discovery with the Parties moving forward. See [#296]. This court then granted the Previously Dismissed Defendants’ motion for additional time to respond to the operative Second Amended Complaint, and re-set the status conference from August to October, with express instruction that the Parties were to engage in discovery during the 60-day extension period. See [#309]. Nevertheless, since that time, the Parties have been mired in continuous disputes over the appropriateness of discovery served and the adequacy of responses provided, and another six months have passed in a case that was originally filed on November 15, 2012. This was certainly not what the court anticipated, and is not what the Federal Rules intended. Against this framework, this court now turns to the issue at hand.

I. Defendants’ Requests for Production

As an initial matter, Plaintiffs object to Defendants’ Requests for Production Nos. 4-10, 16-23 on various grounds, including overbreadth, burden, and relevance. In reviewing Defendants’ propounded discovery requests, this court agrees that many of the Requests for Production are improper on their face as omnibus requests. For instance, Request No. 3 seeks:

All documents relating to any meeting, discussion, or conversation (whether in person, by telephone, or via e-mail) between you and SurgCenter in which a payor, including United, Aetna, Anthem, or Cigna, is directly or indirectly mentioned or referenced.

[#366-1 at 17]. “You” “refers to each Plaintiff separately and collectively.” [Id. at 7]. “SurgCenter” refers to “Surgical Center Development, Inc., including, without limitation, any predecessors or successors, joint ventures, or any agents, representatives, servants, consultants, attorneys, physicians, investors, or any other person(s) acting or purporting to act with or on behalf of the foregoing.” [Id.] At least with Request for Production No. 3, [2] there appears to be no attempt by Defendants to tailor the discovery request to issues arising from this case. So it does not come as a surprise to this court that documents responsive to this Request have been previously produced.

On the other hand, Plaintiffs’ boilerplate objections are no better. Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, effective December 2, 2015, [3] requires objections to discovery requests to be made with “specificity” and “an objection must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of the objection.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B)-(C). Boilerplate objections are improper. See Advisory Comm. Notes to Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(B) (eff. Dec. 1, 2015); Cartel Asset Mgmt., 2010 WL 502721, at *10. The responding party has the obligation to explain and support its objections. Witt v. GC Servs. Ltd. Partnership, 307 F.R.D. 554, 561 (D. Colo. 2014). As far as this court can tell, Plaintiffs fail to provide any specificity to their objections, including their objection that they have already produced responsive documents. Rather, it appears that Plaintiffs’ ...


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