Stout v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company et al

Filing 55


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1 2 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 3 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 4 5 KATHLEEN A. STOUT, 6 Plaintiff, 7 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 No. CV 11-6186 CW v. HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INS. CO., AMAZON.COM HOLDINGS, INC. LONG TERM DISABILITY PLAN, and DOES 1-20, ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO FILE UNDER SEAL (Docket No. 46) Defendants. ________________________________/ 12 On November 15, 2012, Plaintiff Kathleen Stout filed an 13 administrative motion seeking permission to file under seal 14 Exhibits C through F of Brian Kim’s declaration in support of her 15 Rule 52 motion for judgment. Defendants, Hartford Life and 16 Accident Insurance Company and Holdings, Inc. Long Term 17 Disability Plan, who designated these documents as confidential, 18 have submitted declarations in support of Plaintiff’s motion to 19 seal. Having reviewed the parties’ papers, the Court now grants 20 the motion in part and denies it in part. In addition, the Court 21 approves Plaintiff’s proposed redactions to her motion for 22 judgment and to her proposed findings of fact and conclusions of 23 law. 24 DISCUSSION 25 The Ninth Circuit has held that where a party seeks to file 26 documents under seal in connection with a dispositive motion, the 27 moving party must demonstrate compelling reasons to seal the 28 1 documents. 2 1178–79 (9th Cir. 2006). 3 must articulate compelling reasons supported by specific factual 4 findings that outweigh the general history of access and the 5 public policies favoring disclosure, such as the public interest 6 in understanding the judicial process.” 7 citations and alterations omitted). 8 conscientiously balance the competing interests of the public and 9 the party who seeks to keep certain judicial records secret.” Kamakana v. City & County of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, “The party requesting the sealing order Id. at 1178–79 (internal “In turn, the court must Id. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 at 1179 (internal citations and alterations omitted). 11 fact that the production of records may lead to a litigant’s 12 embarrassment, incrimination, or exposure to further litigation 13 will not, without more, compel the court to seal its records.” 14 Id. (citing Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 15 1122, 1136 (9th Cir. 2003)). 16 “The mere Here, Plaintiff seeks to file under seal several documents in 17 connection with her motion for judgment. 18 designated the documents at issue as confidential, they have filed 19 declarations seeking to establish that the documents are sealable 20 pursuant to Civil Local Rule 79–5(d). 21 address each of these documents and Defendants’ proffered 22 justifications for sealing them. Because Defendants The following sections 23 A. 24 First, the parties seek to seal Exhibit C to Brian Kim’s Kim Declaration, Exhibit C 25 declaration in support of Plaintiff’s motion for judgment. 26 Exhibit C consists of the entire policy and procedure manual for 27 Hartford’s “GBD Special Investigations Unit.” 28 is prominently labeled “Proprietary & Confidential,” essentially 2 This manual, which 1 sets forth the company’s protocols for investigating and reporting 2 insurance fraud by its policyholders. 3 manual contains information that, if made public, “would work to 4 Hartford’s commercial and competitive disadvantage” by allowing 5 competitors to adopt Hartford’s investigative procedures. 6 Declaration of Yvonne S. Bretz ¶ 3. 7 manual includes information about vendors with whom Hartford 8 contracts to provide certain claims services, competitors could 9 use it to “solicit business away from Hartford” or gain a Defendants contend that the Additionally, because the United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 “competitive edge in marketing.” 11 Defendants have implemented various internal safeguards to protect 12 against the manual’s disclosure. 13 manual itself, the Court finds that Defendants have established 14 compelling reasons for sealing the manual. Id. For all of these reasons, Id. ¶ 5. Having reviewed the 15 B. 16 The parties next seek to seal Exhibit D to the Kim Kim Declaration, Exhibit D 17 declaration. 18 performance evaluations of one of its employees. 19 contend that this document is confidential and should be sealed in 20 its entirety to protect the employee’s privacy. 21 Jeffrey O’Polka ¶¶ 8-9. 22 privacy interests justify shielding their performance evaluations 23 from public view. 24 1203980, at *11 (D. Md.) (granting motion to seal “sensitive 25 personnel records”), with Lown v. Salvation Army, Inc., 2012 WL 26 4888534, at *2 (S.D.N.Y.) (holding that an employee’s “privacy 27 interests are entitled to significant weight in the balancing 28 against the public’s right to access” but those interests are not Exhibit D consists of excerpts of Hartford’s Defendants Declaration of Courts are split on whether employees’ Compare Butler v. DirectSAT USA, LLC, 2012 WL 3 1 sufficiently compelling to justify sealing the employee’s 2 performance reviews). 3 evaluations are largely positive and, to the extent Plaintiff 4 relies on them, it is principally to establish the reviewer’s 5 conduct -- not to impugn or embarrass the employee. 6 the employee’s privacy interests, standing alone, are insufficient 7 to justify sealing the performance evaluations. 8 9 Here, the employee’s performance Accordingly, Hartford also contends that the performance evaluations should be sealed because they contain sensitive and proprietary United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 information regarding the company’s performance criteria and 11 investigation guidelines. 12 that these concerns could be addressed simply by redacting some of 13 the specific figures cited in the evaluations to document employee 14 performance over time. 15 compelling interest in shielding the following numbers from 16 disclosure: individual and peer-group averages for MCM referral 17 rates (cited on pages 1862, 1865, 1875), Investigator referrals 18 per month (1865, 1875), cases accepted per month (1858, 1865, 19 1867, 1875), proactives accepted per month (1875), companion 20 waivers accepted per month (1875), referrals accepted per month 21 (1875), and the total number of accepted and closed cases per year 22 (1875). 23 evaluations that can reasonably be deemed sensitive. 24 the document simply relies on generic performance indicators to 25 assess the employee and compare him to his peers. O’Polka Decl. ¶¶ 8-9. The Court finds In particular, Defendants have a These are the only aspects of the excerpted performance The rest of 26 Accordingly, the Court finds that Defendants have only 27 established compelling reasons to seal certain parts of the 28 performance evaluations, as specified above. 4 1 C. 2 Finally, the parties seek to seal Exhibits E and F of the Kim Kim Declaration, Exhibits E-F declaration. 4 responses to Plaintiff’s first set of interrogatories while 5 Exhibit F consists of Hartford’s “Independent Medical Consultant 6 Services Agreement” with the University Disability Consortium 7 (UDC). 8 confidential and proprietary information about the “cost and 9 manner” in which Hartford secures its medical reviews through its 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 3 medical vendors and physicians and “how those materials are used 11 to evaluate claims.” 12 Hartford’s competitors could use this information to adjust their 13 own contracts with vendors and physicians, thus undermining 14 Hartford’s ability to compete. 15 documents, the Court finds that Defendants have established 16 compelling reasons for sealing Hartford’s contract with UDC and 17 its supplemental responses to Plaintiff’s first set of 18 interrogatories. 19 litigants may file under seal their contracts with third parties 20 that contain proprietary and confidential business information. 21 See Power Tech., Inc. v. Tessera, Inc., 2012 WL 3283421, at *1 22 (N.D. Cal.). Defendants contend that both of these documents contain 23 24 Exhibit E consists of Hartford’s supplemental O’Polka Decl. ¶ 7. Id. They note that After reviewing the This Court has previously recognized that CONCLUSION For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff’s motion to file 25 under seal (Docket No. 46) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. 26 The Court GRANTS Plaintiff leave to file under seal Exhibits C, E, 27 and F to Brian Kim’s declaration in support of Plaintiff’s motion 28 for judgment. Within three days of this order, Plaintiff shall 5 1 redact Exhibit D in a manner consistent with this order and shall 2 file it in the public record. 3 public record the redacted versions of her motion for judgment and 4 of her proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. 5 unredacted versions of Plaintiff’s motion for judgment and 6 proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law shall be filed 7 under seal. 8 Plaintiff shall also file in the The IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 Dated: 12/4/2012 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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