Main & Associates, Inc. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that BCBS submit additional argument in support of 16 Motion to Submit Filing Under Seal on or before June 1, 2010; that Main shall file its response on or before June 8, 2010. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 5/20/2010. (cc, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA E A S T E R N DIVISION M A IN & ASSOCIATES, INC. d /b /a SOUTHERN SPRINGS H E A L T H C A R E FACILITY, P L A IN T IF F , v. B L U E CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD O F ALABAMA, D EFEN D A N T. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )
C A S E NO. 2:10-cv-326-MEF (W O )
M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER T h is cause is before the Court on the Motion to Submit Filing Under Seal (Doc. # 16) f ile d on May 18, 2010 by Defendant Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama ("BCBS"). FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY O n March 12, 2010, Plaintiff Main and Associates, Inc. ("Main") 1 filed suit against B C B S in the Circuit Court for Bullock County, Alabama. By its Complaint, Main seeks to b rin g suit against BCBS individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated entities or p e rs o n s . Main alleges that BCBS wrongfully and tortiously failed to provide coverage and b e n e fits for Medicare-covered services Main and other class members performed despite a le g a l and contractual duty to do so. Main seeks relief pursuant to Alabama law for breach
Main does business as Southern Springs Healthcare Facility, which is a skilled nursing facility that provides nursing home healthcare to patients in and around Union Springs, Alabama.
o f contract (Count I), intentional interference with business relations (Count II), negligence a n d wantonness (Count III), and unjust enrichment (Count IV). In addition to seeking m o n e ta ry relief, Main also seeks equitable injunctive relief. On April 15, 2010, BCBS removed the case to this Court. BCBS invokes this Court's s u b je c t matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. BCBS contends that Count IV of th e Complaint is actually a claim under the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 and 3 7 3 2 . It also asserts that the claims are claims for Medicare benefits or are inextricably in te rtw in e d with claims for Medicare benefits which means that this action arises under the M e d ica re Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. Finally, it a rg u e s that the Medicare Act, as amended by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, a n d Modernization Act of 2003 completely preempts Main's claims pursuant to Alabama law . On April 28, 2010, Main filed a motion seeking remand of the case to state court.
M a in contends that the action asserts no claims that are founded upon or arise under federal la w . On May 18, 2010, BCBS filed its opposition to the motion to remand. As part of its s u b m is s io n s in support of this opposition, BCBS submitted an affidavit from Ashley Mosko (" M o s k o " ). BCBS asks this Court to seal the exhibits attached to the Mosko affidavit. The e x h ib its BCBS would have sealed are: its application to operate the Medicare Advantage P P O coordinated care plan at issue in this case, the executed Medicare Advantage contract, a n d the prototype contract that BCBS proposed to enter with skilled nursing facilities to
p r o v i d e Medicare Advantage benefits. BCBS asserts in a conclusory fashion that these e x h ib its are "confidential and sensitive business proprietary documents and that its ongoing f in a n c ia l and business interests will be subject to harm and exploitation in the event that the e x h ib its are held in the public record. DISCUSSION " O n c e a matter is brought before a court for resolution, it is no longer solely the p a rtie s' case, but also the public's case." Brown v. Advantage Eng'g, Inc., 960 F.2d 1013, 1 0 1 6 (11th Cir. 1992). There is a limited First Amendment right of access to civil trial p r o c e e d in g s . See Chicago Tribune, 263 F.3d at 1310. In addition, the public has a commonla w right to inspect and copy judicial records, although the right is not absolute. See Nixon v . Warner Comms., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597-98 (1978). Absent a showing that the interests o f non-disclosure outweigh the public's common law right of access, courts often deny even jo in t motions to seal in civil cases. See, e.g., Baxter Int'l, Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 297 F.3d 544 (7 th Cir. 2002) (denying joint motion to maintain certain documents under seal); Jaufre ex r e l. Jaufre v. Taylor, 351 F. Supp. 2d 514 (E.D. La. 2005) (denying joint motion to seal court re c o rd ); Stamp v. Overnite Transp. Co., No. Civ. A. 96-2320-GTV, 1998 WL 229538 (D. K an . Apr. 10, 1998) (denying joint motion to seal court record). A federal court's authority to seal or otherwise prevent public access to documents or p ro c e e d in g s is derived from Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. C iv . P. 26(c); see also In re Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc., v. CBS, Inc., 184 F. Supp.
2 d 1353, 1362 (N.D. Ga. 2002). In relevant part, Rule 26(c) provides: P r o te c tiv e Orders. Upon motion by a party or by the person fro m whom discovery is sought . . . for good cause shown, the c o u rt . . . may make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, o r undue burden or expense, including one or more of the f o llo w in g : .... (6 ) that a deposition, after being sealed, be opened only by order o f the court; (7 ) that a trade secret or other confidential research, d e v e lo p m e n t, or commercial information not be revealed or be re v e ale d only in a designated way; and (8 ) that the parties simultaneously file specified documents or in f o rm a tio n enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as d ire c ted by the court. F e d . R. Civ. P. 26(c) (emphasis added). Analysis of whether materials submitted in conjunction with the motions in this case a r e subject to either the common-law right of access or the First Amendment right of access re q u ire s the Court to assess whether the proponent of sealing the documents has satisfied the " g o o d cause" showing required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c). See, e.g., Chicago T r ib u n e , 263 F.3d at 1310-15; Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., 184 F. Supp. 2d at 1365-67. T h is analysis requires the Court to (1) determine whether valid grounds for the issuance of a protective order have been presented; and (2) balance the public's interest in access against th e litigant's interest in confidentiality. Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., 184 F. Supp. 2d a t 1366. Even when no third party challenges a motion to seal, however, the Court must still
en su re that the motion is supported by good cause. See Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., 1 8 4 F. Supp. 2d at 1363. "The judge is the primary representative of the public interest in th e judicial process and is duty-bound therefore to review any request to seal the record (or p a r t of it). He may not rubber stamp a stipulation to seal the record." Citizens First Nat'l B a n k of Princeton v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal citation o m i tt e d ) . A t this point, the Court is not persuaded that BCBS has met its burden of articulating g o o d cause as required for sealing the documents pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 2 6 (c ). Therefore, in light of the foregoing authorities, it is hereby ORDERED that: (1 ) BCBS submit additional argument in support of the Motion to Submit Filing U n d e r Seal (Doc. # 16) in writing on or before June 1, 2010. BCBS's submission in response to this Order should cite legal precedent and make specific arguments as to why that p re c e d e n t supports its position with respect to filing particular type of exhibits under seal. (2 ) Main shall file its response on or before June 8, 2010. D O N E this the 20 th day of May, 2010. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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