United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
JENNI R. WARD, Plaintiff,
LIBERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION, Defendant.
TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Non-Party Medical Evaluation Specialists,
Inc.'s (MES) Motion to Quash Plaintiff's Document and
Deposition Subpoenas [Doc. No. 52]. Plaintiff has filed her
response in opposition [Doc. No. 59] and MES has replied
[Doc. No. 65]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue. For
the reasons stated below, the Court finds that MES's
motion should be granted.
was involved in a car accident in which she sustained severe
injuries. At all times relevant hereto, Plaintiff was insured
under an insurance policy issued by Defendant Liberty
Insurance Company (Liberty). Liberty requested that Plaintiff
undergo an independent medical examination (IME), to which
MES acted as an intermediary. MES provides IME services to
the insurance, corporate, legal, and government sectors. MES
referred Plaintiff's matter to a physician and assisted
in the review of her medical bills.
contends that Defendant (1) breached the policy by wrongfully
denying her demand for uninsured motorist (UM) benefits, and
(2) violated its duty of good faith and fair dealing by (a)
refusing UM coverage without first obtaining a valid
rejection, (b) failing to conduct an adequate investigation
of Plaintiff's claim, (c) relying on the opinion of a
biased doctor to deny her claim, and (d) creating obstacles
for Plaintiff as a means to deny her claim. With respect to
her contention that the reviewing physician was biased,
Plaintiff issued a subpoena requesting that MES produce
documents regarding, inter alia, its policies and
procedures concerning IMEs (the Documents Subpoena) and
another seeking the deposition of a MES corporate
representative (the Deposition Subpoena) to testify on
virtually the same topics. MES moves to quash the subpoenas
on the grounds they seek proprietary information, are overly
burdensome, and irrelevant to the issues in this litigation.
The parties met and conferred to resolve the matters without
court intervention, but have reached an impasse.
subpoena served on a third party pursuant to Rule 45 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is considered discovery
within the meaning of the rules. Rice v. United
States, 164 F.R.D. 556, 556-57 (N.D. Okla. 1995).
Accordingly, considerations of both relevance and
proportionality govern the subpoenas at issue. Pursuant to
Rule 45, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a] party
or attorney responsible for issuing and serving a subpoena
must take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or
expense on a person subject to the subpoena.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(1). Rule 45(d)(3) authorizes the Court to
quash a subpoena under specified circumstances, including
when the subpoena requires disclosure of privileged or
protected materials, when an exception or waiver does not
apply, or when the subpoena subjects a person to undue
Rule 26(b)(1), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, sets forth
the scope of discovery and provides:
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.
Fed. R. Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Under this standard,
“relevance” has been broadly defined to include
“any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could
lead to other matter[s] that could bear on, any issue that is
or may be in the case.” United States v.
Childs, No. CR-09-146-D, 2018 WL 775018, at *3 (W.D.
Okla. Feb. 7, 2018) (citations omitted). The Advisory
Committee Notes for the 2000 Amendments to Rule 26 direct the
parties and courts to “focus on the actual claims and
defenses involved in the action” in determining
relevance for purposes of discovery. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 26 Advisory Committee Notes, 2000 Amendments,
burden of establishing grounds for quashing the subpoena
falls on the moving party, with the party seeking to quash a
subpoena carrying a particularly heavy burden as opposed to
one seeking only limited protection. In re Coordinated
Pretrial Proceedings in Petroleum Prod. Antitrust
Litig., 669 F.2d 620, 623 (10th Cir. 1982); S.E.C.
v. Goldstone, 301 F.R.D. 593, 646 (D.N.M. 2014). The
objecting party must submit “a particular and specific
demonstration of fact, as distinguished from stereotyped and
conclusory statements.” Gulf Oil Co. v.
Bernard, 452 U.S. 89, 102 n. 16 (1981) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted).
initial matter, Plaintiff contends MES's motion is
untimely since it was filed eighteen days after the
prescribed date of production (the date of compliance listed
on the Documents Subpoena was June 26, 2017; MES's motion
was not filed until July 14, 2017). Rule 45 requires that an
objection to a subpoena be made “before the earlier of
the time specified for compliance or 14 days after the
subpoena is served.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
45(d)(2)(B). Conversely, the rule requires that motions
to quash only be timely filed. Fed.R.Civ.P.
45(d)(2)(B)(3). “Timely” is not defined in Rule
45. The term was adopted in 1991 and replaced the previous