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Duffy v. Lawrence Memorial Hospital

United States District Court, D. Kansas

August 7, 2017

MEGEN DUFFY, Relator/Plaintiff,
v.
LAWRENCE MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Teresa J. James U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Relator's[1] Motion to Compel Regarding Defendant's Responses and Objections to Qui Tam Plaintiff's Second Interrogatories and Fourth Request for Production of Documents to Defendant (ECF No. 192). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 and D. Kan. Rules 37.1 and 37.2, Plaintiff asks the Court to order Defendant Lawrence Memorial Hospital to supplement responses, withdraw objections, and answer interrogatories without objection. Defendant opposes the motion. As set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is largely granted.

         I. Relevant Background

         Plaintiff served her Second Interrogatories and Fourth Request for Production of Documents on February 10, 2017.[2] On March 10, 2017, Defendant objected to the interrogatories and responded and objected to the RFPs.[3] Plaintiff's counsel sent a golden rule letter on April 7, 2017, pointing out alleged improprieties with Defendant's objections.[4] The parties conferred by telephone on May 22, 2017, after the Court extended until May 26 Plaintiff's deadline to file the instant motion. Although the parties were not able to resolve their differences during the call, they significantly narrowed the issues. Based on the parties' efforts, the Court finds they have complied with the requirements of D. Kan. Rule 37.2.

         As a result of changed positions reflected in Defendant's response, Plaintiff's ultimate request is different than that contained in her motion. As narrowed and refined by her reply, the Court is prepared to rule on the remaining disputes in Plaintiff's motion to compel.

         II. Summary of the Parties' Arguments

         Plaintiff brings this qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq., against her former employer, Lawrence Memorial Hospital (“LMH”), alleging in part that LMH submitted false information to the federal government in order to maximize reimbursement from federal medical care programs. As required by the FCA, Plaintiff served a “copy of the complaint and written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information” she possessed on the United States Attorney for the District of Kansas to permit the government an opportunity to elect to intervene in the action.[5] After the government elected not to prosecute the action, [6] Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint was unsealed and Plaintiff served LMH. Defendant answered the Second Amended Complaint and asserted counterclaims against Plaintiff for breach of contract and fraud.[7]

         III. Whether the Discovery Sought is Relevant and Discoverable

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) sets out the general scope of discovery and provides as follows:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged 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.[8]

         Relevancy is to be “construed broadly to encompass any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on” any party's claim or defense.[9] Information still “need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”[10] When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevancy as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevancy that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.[11] Conversely, when the relevancy of the discovery request is not readily apparent on its face, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.[12] Relevancy determinations are generally made on a case-by-case basis.[13]

         In this action, the Court finds that the relevancy of the discovery called for by Plaintiff's Second Interrogatories and Fourth Request for Production of Documents is apparent on its face. Indeed, Defendant's response confirms the facial relevancy by stipulating to certain facts and insisting that it has produced documents responsive to the interrogatories and RFPs. The Court discusses below Defendant's other objections, but with respect to relevancy the Court overrules Defendant's objection.[14] And as the Court previously noted, Defendant's argument distracts from the issue at hand, i.e. whether the discovery requested is relevant and discoverable.

         IV. Defendant's Common and Boilerplate Objections

         Before considering the individual requests and objections, the Court notes that Defendant has again asserted the boilerplate objection that Plaintiff's interrogatories are unduly burdensome.[15] This time, Defendant includes an assessment of the costs Defendant would incur if it produced the requested discovery. But the objection is moot because the parties have agreed to stipulate to Defendant's responses, so the Court need not rule on it.

         V. Specific ...


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