United States District Court, S.D. Florida
MAO-MSO RECOVERY II, LLC, a Delaware entity; MSP RECOVERY LLC, a Florida entity; MSP A CLAIMS 1, LLC, a Florida entity, Plaintiffs,
USAA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, a Texas company, Defendant.
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION CHALLENGING
PLAINTIFFS' CONFIDENTIALITY DESIGNATIONS
G. TORRES United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on USAA Casualty Insurance
Company's ("Defendant") motion challenging
confidentiality designations made by MAO-MSO Recovery II,
LLC, MSP Recovery LLC, and MSPA Claims 1, LLC (collectively,
"Plaintiffs"). [D.E. 42]. Plaintiffs responded to
Defendant's motion on October 20, 2017 [D.E. 43] to which
Defendant replied on October 27, 2017. [D.E. 44]. Therefore,
Defendant's motion is now ripe for disposition. After
careful consideration of the motion, response, reply,
relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below,
Defendant's motion is DENIED.
a putative class action in which Plaintiffs allege that
Defendant failed to fulfill its statutorily-mandated duty to
reimburse Medicare Advantage Organizations ("MAOs")
for medical expenses related to automobile accidents
involving Medicare enrollees. More specifically, Plaintiffs
allege that (1) MAOs paid unspecified medical expenses
related to treatment of Medicare enrollees arising out of
unspecified automobile accidents, (2) Defendant was
responsible for those expenses, and (3) Defendant failed to
fulfill its duty to reimburse MAOs for medical
expenses. As such, this lawsuit seeks reimbursement
for those medical expenses paid by the Plaintiff and the
putative class members, including damages pursuant to the
Medicare Secondary Payer private cause of action under 42
U.S.C. § 1395y(b)(3)(A).
gist of Defendant's motion is that Plaintiffs'
confidentiality designations are improper and that Plaintiff
should be required to produce an un-redacted complaint on the
record for public access. Defendant suggests that the identities
of the MAOs that assigned their claims to Plaintiffs do not
constitute business information or trade secrets and that the
information should not be kept solely between the
parties. Defendant argues that Plaintiffs have failed to
present any compelling basis to overrule the presumption of
public access to court records -including the names of the
MAOs whose recovery rights are at the heart of this action -
and that Plaintiffs must be compelled to disclose this
information in their pleadings.
specifically, Defendant takes issue with the complaints filed
in this case because they fail to identify a single MAO that
assigned anything to Plaintiffs. On July 26, 2017, Plaintiffs
filed their first amended complaint [D.E. 29] and - unlike
the prior complaint - removed a redaction box and replaced it
with the first and last initials of Medicare beneficiaries.
Plaintiffs allegedly represented that they would continue to
redact the names of MAO assignors until the execution of a
qualified protective order that the Court approved on July
31, 2017. Once a protective order was agreed upon, Plaintiffs
provided Defendant with an un-redacted copy of the first
amended complaint, yet still designated the complaint as
confidential and subject to the agreed upon protective
September 28, 2017, Defendant requested that Plaintiffs
justify their reasons for the confidentiality designations in
the complaints. Plaintiffs allegedly explained that the
identity of the MAOs - who assigned their claims to
Plaintiffs -constitutes confidential and proprietary business
information. Defendant disputes Plaintiffs characterization
and advances three arguments to require Plaintiffs to file an
un-redacted complaint on the docket for public access.
Defendant argues that Plaintiffs must produce the requested
information for public disclosure because Plaintiffs cannot
meet their burden that the information requested outweighs
the public interest. Defendant also contends that a list of
MAO assignors is far removed from the types of material that
courts have generally agreed should be treated as
confidential and proprietary business information. See,
e.g., Pinnacle Towers LLC v. Airpowered, LLC, 2015 WL
5897524, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 7, 2015) (protecting licensing
agreements that included pricing terms); Abdulla v.
Chaudhary, 2014 WL 12617454, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Oct. 15,
2014) (protecting documents that included "private
financial information including income, assets, and
liabilities"); Graphic Packaging Int'l, Inc. v.
C.W. Zumbiel Co., 2010 WL 6790538, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Oct.
28, 2010) (sealing documents where "the disclosure of
financial information . . . could negatively impact [the
party's] pricing with other customers" and holding
that a party's "interest in maintaining the
confidentiality of its financial information and the terms of
its contractual relationship with its customer outweigh the
public's interest in accessing the documents").
Plaintiffs should allegedly comply with Defendant's
request because Plaintiffs must eventually prove the validity
of their assignments in order to demonstrate that Plaintiffs
have standing to sue. Stated differently, Plaintiffs must
purportedly present some form of assignment that vest
recovery rights in order for this action to advance. And
third, Defendant suggests that it would be unreasonably
confusing and burdensome if Plaintiffs continue to redact or
seal documents for the sole purpose of protecting the names
of their assignors. There is allegedly no justification for
this layer of secrecy and therefore Plaintiffs'
confidential designations must be overruled.
response, Plaintiffs argue that, after the Court approved the
stipulated protective order in this case, they provided
Defendant with an un-redacted copy of the first amended
complaint. This disclosure occurred after
the parties submitted their protective order because
Plaintiffs view the identities of the MAOs that assigned
their rights as a small subset of a larger customer list and
therefore an economic harm may result if the information is
available to the public. Plaintiffs also explain that if
Defendant seeks the remainder of MAOs that assigned their
rights to Plaintiffs, then Defendants need only request that
information in discovery. As such, Plaintiffs do not oppose
the production of the information sought; the only issue is
whether the names of the MAOs that have assigned their rights
should be disclosed to the public.
operations of the courts and the judicial conduct of judges
are matters of utmost public concern, " Landmark
Commc'ns, Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U.S. 829, 839
(1978), and "[t]he common-law right of access to
judicial proceedings, an essential component of our system of
justice, is instrumental in securing the integrity of the
process." Chicago Tribune Co. v.
Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304, 1311 (11th
Cir. 2001). This right "includes the right to inspect
and copy public records and documents." Id.
(citation omitted). However, this right of access is not
absolute because it ordinarily "does not apply to
discovery and, where it does apply, may be overcome by a
showing of good cause." Romero v. Drummond Co.,
480 F.3d 1234, 1245 (11th Cir. 2007).
finding of good cause requires "balanc[ing] the asserted
right of access against the other party's interest in
keeping the information confidential." Chicago
Tribune, 263 F.3d at 1309. "[W]hether good cause
exists . . . is . . . decided by the nature and character of
the information in question." Id. at 1315.
"In balancing the public interest in accessing court
documents against a party's interest in keeping the
information confidential, courts consider, among other
factors, whether allowing access would impair court functions
or harm legitimate privacy interests, the degree of and
likelihood of injury if made public, the reliability of the
information, whether there will be an opportunity to respond
to the information, whether the information concerns public
officials or public concerns, and the availability of a less
onerous alternative to sealing the documents."
Romero, 480 F.3d at 1246.
full consideration of the arguments presented and the
relevant authority, we agree with Plaintiffs that the public
disclosure of the MAO assignors may result in unnecessary
harm and prejudice to Plaintiffs' business. As Plaintiffs
point out, these assignors are part of a larger customer list
that has taken many years of hard work to assemble and
Plaintiffs' clients are all competing MAOs. If the
assignors became public, there is a possibility that it would
impact Plaintiffs' relationship with each client and
undermine Plaintiffs' efforts to develop new business
relationships with other MAOs. This conclusion is reinforced
even more so by ...