Card v. Principal Life Insurance Company
ORDER : 1. Card's motion to enforce a subpoena directed at a third-party 55 is DENIED; 2. Card's motion to stay 56 is GRANTED; 3. This Court's previous order 63 ruling on Card's second motion for extension of time is VACATED and SET ASIDE; 4. Card's motions for extension of time 60 , 62 are GRANTED to the extent that more time is requested, but DENIED as to the specific time frames sought; 5. Card MUST FILED in the record the decision of any court to address her motion to enforce immediately after the decision's issuance; and 6. Upon the filing of the decision on Card's motion to enforce, the Court will set new discovery and briefing deadlines. Signed by Judge Karen K. Caldwell on 5/23/2017.(KM)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:15-139-KKC
OPINION & ORDER
PRINCIPAL LIFE INSURANCE
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This matter is before the Court on plaintiff Susan Card’s motion to enforce a document
subpoena (DE 55), motion to stay (DE 56), and motions for extension of time (DE 60; DE 62).
For the following reasons, Card’s motion to enforce is DENIED, her motion to stay is
GRANTED, and motions for extension of time are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
Card brought suit against Principal Life Insurance Company under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, known simply as ERISA. See 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et
seq. Card argues that Principal improperly denied her claim for disability benefits and that
Principal operated “under an inherent and structural conflict of interest because any
disability benefits provided to Ms. Card are paid from Principal’s assets.” (DE 3, Amended
Compl. ¶¶ 14, 16).
Litigation in this case has been contentious, and Card’s present motions have been no
exception. First, Card seeks to enforce a subpoena directed to MES Peer Review Services,1 a
Card actually directed the subpoena to Medical Evaluation Specialists, Inc., d/b/a MES Solutions. The entity
that provided services in Card’s case, however, was Lone Star Consulting Services, LLC, d/b/a MES Peer Review
vendor for Principal. (DE 55). Second, Card asks the Court for a stay while the subpoena
issue is being resolved (DE 56). Third, Card has twice requested more time to file her motion
for summary judgment. (DE 60; DE 62).
II. Motion to enforce the third-party subpoena
As a preliminary matter, the Court will note that its review in an ERISA case is normally
limited to the administrative record. See Wilkins v. Baptist Healthcare Sys., Inc., 150 F.3d
609, 615 (6th Cir. 1998). Yet, the Supreme Court has opened the door for discovery in some
ERISA cases when the decision maker operates under an inherent conflict of interest. See
Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, 554 U.S. 105, 108 (2008). Still, the amount of discovery the
Court will permit in an ERISA case is narrow.
In Mullins v. Prudential Insurance Co. of America, the Western District of Kentucky
delineated these “permitted areas of inquiry”:
incentive, bonus, or reward programs or systems, formal or informal, for
any employee(s) involved in any meaningful way in reviewing disability
contractual connections between plan administrator/payor and the
reviewers used in plaintiff’s claim and financial payments paid annually to
the reviewers from the administrator/payor;
statistical data regarding the number of claims files sent to the reviewers
and the number of denials that resulted;
number of times the reviewers found claimants able to work in at least a
sedentary occupation or found that claimants were not disabled; and
documentation of administrative processes designed only to check the
accuracy of grants of claims (limited to claims guidelines actually consulted
to adjudicate plaintiff’s claim).
267 F.R.D. 504, 513 (W.D. Ky. 2010).
Services. (DE 58, Response at 1, n.1). MES Peer Review Services is the relevant party in this case and will be
referred to simply as “MES.”
Card seeks several types of documents from MES. First, she requests all documents in
MES’s possession or control in which she is referenced. (DE 55-1). Next, she requests specific
statistical data from MES and involving Principal, from March 17, 2010, to the present,
namely, the outcome reports by service/subservice and the outcome/average turnaround time
reports. (DE 55-1).
Card argues that the documents she seeks through the subpoena are “directly relevant to
the issues before the Court in this ERISA benefits case—Principal’s financial bias and failure
to provide a full-and-fair review.” (DE 55, Mtn. at 3).
In response, MES asserts a procedural challenge to the subpoena and argues that the
motion to enforce was filed in the wrong court. MES has not waived any of its substantive
objections to the subpoena.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(d)(2)(B)(i) is the basis for MES’s argument, and that
rule provides, in relevant part, that “[a]t any time, on notice to the commanded person, the
serving party may move the court for the district where compliance is required for an order
compelling production or inspection.”
Here, Card’s subpoena designated the Law Offices of Jonathan M. Feigenbaum, 184 High
Street, Suite 503, Boston, MA 02110, as the place of compliance. (DE 55-1). Thus, Card’s
motion to enforce should be brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of
This is not the proper court to address the merits of the parties’ dispute as they relate to
the subpoena, so it will deny Card’s motion to enforce. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(2)(A); Fed. R.
Civ. P. 45(d)(2)(B)(i).
Nonetheless, the Court reminds present and future counsel that the limited discovery
permitted in ERISA cases does not open the door for discovery carte blanche. If it had not
already permitted Card to seek information via subpoenas, this Court would consider
restricting discovery in this case. See Lewis v. ACB Business Servs., Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 402
(6th Cir. 1998) (“The scope of discovery is, of course, within the broad discretion of the trial
court. ‘An order denying further discovery will be grounds for reversal only if it was an abuse
of discretion resulting in substantial prejudice.’”) (internal citations within quote omitted).
To be clear, the Court will take a more cautious approach before approving such a hunt for
discovery in the future.
b. Motion to stay and motions for extension of time
Next, Card has moved the Court to stay this proceeding while she attempts to enforce her
subpoena. She has also made two requests for more time to file her motion for summary
Principal opposes Card’s motion to stay and argues that “[t]he proceedings in this matter
should not be stayed while Plaintiff engages in a wild goose chase for documents which have
no connection to this case as they were not provided to Principal Life, were not available to
Principal Life and played no part in Principal Life’s determination to deny Plaintiff’s claim.”
(DE 57, Response ¶ 4).
Upon review of the docket, the Court counts at least seven requests for more time or
similar relief (DE 11; DE 33; DE 43; DE 51; DE 56; DE 60; DE 62), and the most recent
deadlines established by the Court have come and gone. (DE 54).
Although the Court is troubled by Card’s fishing expedition, it will reluctantly grant her
motion to stay this proceeding and both of her motions for extension of time while she
attempts to enforce her subpoena in a different district. Further, the Court will have to
establish new discovery and briefing deadlines.
As a final matter, the Court will not entertain requests by either party for attorney fees
and costs at this time.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that:
(1) Card’s motion to enforce a subpoena directed at a third-party is DENIED (DE 55);
(2) Card’s motion to stay is GRANTED (DE 56);
(3) This Court’s previous order ruling on Card’s second motion for extension of time is
VACATED and SET ASIDE (DE 63);
(4) Card’s motions for extension of time are GRANTED to the extent that more time is
requested, but DENIED as to the specific time frames sought (DE 60; DE 62);
(5) Card MUST FILE in the record the decision of any court to address her motion to
enforce immediately after the decision’s issuance; and
(6) Upon the filing of the decision on Card’s motion to enforce, the Court will set new
discovery and briefing deadlines.
Dated May 23, 2017.
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