United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
R. LAMMENS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
removal action, Plaintiff seeks damages for personal injuries
as a result of a slip and fall accident at Defendant's
Dollar General store. Two motions are currently pending that
pertain to a discovery dispute between the parties and
third-parties. Non-Party, Florida Spine and Joint Institute
has filed a motion to quash and for protective order (Doc.
17) regarding what it argues are Defendant's overbroad,
burdensome and harassing discovery requests. Meanwhile,
Defendant Dolgencorp has filed a motion to compel which is
not yet ripe regarding American Horizon Financial's
production of documents. (Doc. 20).
pending motions pertain to what is essentially the same
disputed discovery issue. During discovery, Defendant has
attempted to obtain information regarding Plaintiff's
damages, specifically her injuries, treatment, and medical
bills and expenses. Defendant contends that Plaintiff's
medical expenses are exorbitant and unreasonable, and seeks
discovery regarding the reasonableness of the bills.
of those efforts, Defendant served subpoenas on a third-party
medical provider that treated Plaintiff, Florida Spine and
Joint Institute. Defendant served a subpoena duces tecum on
Florida Spine and Joint Institute, seeking a deposition and
documents pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). (Doc. 17).
Florida Spine and Joint Institute filed a motion to quash and
for protective order (Doc. 17), and the Court ordered the
parties to meet and confer regarding the matters in dispute.
Ultimately, in accordance with the Court's Order,
Defendant responded reporting the results of the conference,
and setting forth more narrowly tailored discovery requests.
explained in Defendant's response (Doc. 22), discovery
has revealed that the majority of Plaintiff's medical
bills were for three providers: Florida Spine and Joint
Institute, Premier Surgical Center, and Advanced Rehab
Specialties. (Doc. 22, p. 10). Defendant contends that a
scheme of sorts existed by which third-party, American
Horizon Financial referred Plaintiff to these medical
providers, and then later purchased Plaintiff's medical
bills. (Doc. 22, p. 10). Defendant asserts that it has
obtained a medical billing expert who will testify that these
three provider's medical bills were unreasonable, and as
much as 15-23 times the amount paid by Medicare. (Doc. 22, p.
11). Defendant argues that the reasonableness of the bills is
a topic that is appropriate for discovery. Defendant contends
that the bills submitted by the providers are
“essentially fake, grossly inflated bills contrived
solely for litigation.” Defendant argues that
“these bills are meaningless since these medical
providers were working for a litigation finance company to
which the providers sold their bills for a much lower
amount.” (Doc. 22, p. 12). Defendant argues that it is
entitled to discover the amount that Plaintiff's doctors
actually charged American Horizon Financial for
Plaintiff's medical care. Accordingly, Defendant seeks
information pertaining to the amounts paid by American
Horizon Financial for patient medical billing or services for
Plaintiff Lynetta Piner, description of the CPT codes used by
Florida Spine and Joint Institute for services provided to
Lynetta Piner, and related information. (Doc. 22, p. 3).
Defendant sets forth numerous discovery requests and areas of
inquiry that are crafted to obtain information about the
actual costs charged for Plaintiff's medical services.
(Doc. 22, p. 2-5).
Defendant has also moved to compel documents and testimony
from third-party American Horizon Financial. (Doc. 20). In
its motion, Defendant reiterates the same arguments explained
above, and asserts that American Financial Horizon has failed
to comply with two properly served subpoenas for documents,
and a Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6) subpoena for a corporate
representative deposition. Defendant contends that, although
witness Lewis Lurie appeared for the deposition, he failed to
provide answers to questions, claiming that information
regarding the amount paid for Plaintiff's medical bills
was a trade secret. (Doc. 20, p. 2, Doc. 19).
worth noting that courts in this Circuit have addressed
similar disputes regarding the sale of medical bills in
personal injury cases, and have allowed discovery on matters
similar to (or even more expansive) than Defendant's now
narrowly-tailored requests to Florida Spine and Joint
Institute. (Doc. 22). See Alvarez Crespo v. Home Depot
U.S.A., Inc., No. 16-60086-CIV, 2016 WL 3854585, at *5
(S.D. Fla. July 15, 2016) (overruling several objections,
including objections to discovery request seeking information
about whether bills had been sold or transferred to third
parties, and “the average percentage discount from face
value these bills were sold for”). Indeed, several
factors are relevant to the analysis of whether a medical
provider's charges are reasonable, including-but not
limited to-(1) the provider's internal cost structure;
(2) the usual and customary rates charged and payments
received for these services; and (3) what other similar
medical providers in the relevant market charge for similar
services. Colomar v. Mercy Hosp., Inc., 461
F.Supp.2d 1265, 1274 (S.D. Fla. 2006).
following the Court's Order of October 30, 2017 (Doc.
18), Defendant has succeeded in narrowing its discovery
requests for Florida Spine and Joint Institute such that they
each pertain to billing records (or contracts and agreements)
relevant specifically to Plaintiff Lynetta Piner, or the
business relationship between American Horizon Financial and
Florida Spine Institute for a narrow time period relevant to
her care, May 2016-June 2016. (Doc. 22, p. 2-5). Given these
narrowly tailored requests, the Court is satisfied that they
are relevant to Defendant's arguments, and appropriate
areas for discovery. The same would be true for discovery
requests that are similarly narrowly tailored and directed to
American Horizon Financial.
said, the Court is mindful of the position of the
third-parties that much of the information sought is alleged
to be a “trade-secret.” Accordingly, the parties
and third-parties are encouraged to meet and confer to agree
upon a protective order that would address those concerns.
to the testimony of the corporate designee, the third-parties
are reminded that “a 30(b)(6) deponent [has] an
affirmative obligation to educate himself as to the matters
regarding the corporation.” Calzaturfico
S.C.A.R.P.A. s.p.a v. Dravo Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins.
Co., 164 F.R.D. 70, 75 (D. Neb. 1995) (‘If the
persons designated by the corporation do not possess personal
knowledge of the matters set out in the deposition notice,
the corporation is obligated to prepare the designees so that
they may give knowledgeable and binding answers for the
corporation.').” Chick fil A v. ExxonMobil
Corp., No. 08 61422 CIV, 2009 WL 3763032, at *11 (S.D.
Fla. Nov. 10, 2009).
upon due consideration, (1) Third-party Florida Spine and
Joint Institute's motion to quash and or for protective
order (Doc. 17) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. On or
before December 5, 2017, Florida Spine and Joint Institute
shall comply with Defendant's narrowed discovery requests
as set forth in its response (Doc. 22). On or before December
5, 2017, Florida Spine and Joint Institute shall also produce
a witness for ...