Piner v. Dolgencorp, LLC
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 17 Motion to Quash and/or Motion for Protective Order. See Order for details. Signed by Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens on 11/9/2017. (JWM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
Case No: 5:17-cv-34-Oc-30PRL
In this 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.
Defendant Dolgencorp has filed a motion to compel which is not yet ripe regarding American
Horizon Financial’s production of documents. (Doc. 20).
Both 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.
As part 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. (Doc. 20).
As 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. 25).
Meanwhile, Defendant has also moved to compel documents and testimony from thirdparty 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.
It is 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).
Here, 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.
That 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.
And, as 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.
Accordingly, upon due consideration,
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 deposition pursuant to Rule 30(b)(6) regarding the
narrowed areas of inquiry set forth in Defendant’s response (Doc. 22).
Defendant’s motion to compel directed to American Horizon Financial (Doc. 20)
is taken under advisement as it is not yet ripe, however, in preparing its response and when
conferring in good faith with counsel for Defendant, American Horizon Financial should be guided
by the principles set forth in this Order.
DONE and ORDERED in Ocala, Florida on November 9, 2017.
Copies furnished to:
Counsel of Record
Florida Spine and Joint Institute
American Horizon Financial
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