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Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Production of Several Years of Backup Tapes

Posted on April 2nd, 2018

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In The Physicians Alliance Corporation v. WellCARE Health Insurance of Arizona, Inc., No. 16-203-SDD-RLB, (Dist. Court, MD Louisiana 2018) the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana considered motions regarding Defendant’s alleged failure to adequately produce discovery.

The Physicians Alliance Corporation (“Plaintiff”) brought this action against WellCare Health Insurance of Arizona, Inc. and WellCare Health Plan, Inc. (“Defendants”) for alleged breach of an Independent Practice Association Agreement. In September of 2016, Plaintiff requested written discovery from Defendant, asking for all documents and communications on any personal or business systems, electronic databases, servers, or document management systems used by certain custodians. Defendants objected to the request on the basis that it is overbroad, unduly burdensome, seeks irrelevant information, and is not proportional to the needs of the case. Defendants also identified certain custodians who left Defendant’s employment, and whose information on their hard drives would have been periodically saved to backup tapes and that restoring those backup tapes would cost approximately $332,400.

On December 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Compel Production and seeks an order requiring Defendants to produce all data from the backup tapes for the years 2003-2004 and 2011 at their expense or, in the alternative, an order permitting Plaintiff’s expert to conduct a physical examination of WellCare’s backup tapes for the years 2003-2004 and 2011. Defendants filed an opposition, arguing that the discovery sought is not proportional to the needs of the case on the basis that the data is likely to be cumulative of prior productions, carries little relevance, and is not reasonably accessible and may not be recoverable at all. Defendants further argue that allowing Plaintiff’s experts to conduct a physical examination of the backup tapes would create a significant security risk and is likewise not proportional to the needs of the case.

The Court responded that unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering 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 the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Having reviewed the pleadings and the arguments of the parties, the Court concludes that the remaining discovery sought in response to Plaintiff’s Request for Production falls within the scope of discovery as defined by FRCP. Defendants raised no such argument in its briefing or at oral argument.

Plaintiff has demonstrated that the discovery sought is proportional to the needs of the case. Defendant does not dispute that the issues at stake in the action are important. The amount in controversy exceeds $20 million and the likely benefit of the discovery sought outweighs any burden or expenses placed on Defendants.

Having concluded that the information sought falls within the scope of discovery, the Court will grant the primary relief sought by Plaintiff. To the extent the backup tapes for 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 cannot be recovered, and to the extent that backup tapes for 2011 never existed, Defendants will not be able to produce any documents.

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