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Fisher v. Iasis Healthcare LLC

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 18, 2018

Aaron Fisher, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
IASIS Healthcare LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Eileen S. Willett, United States Magistrate Judge.

         On May 18, 2018, following the District Judge's referral (Doc. 179), the Court held a telephonic hearing concerning three Joint Notices of Discovery Dispute (Docs. 162, 166, 170). This Order sets forth the Court's rulings on the discovery disputes presented in the Joint Notices.

         I. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides that a party 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). A “relevant matter” under Rule 26(b)(1) is any matter that “bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matters that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351, 98 S.Ct. 2380, 57 L.Ed.2d 253 (1978). In determining proportionality, the court “consider[s] 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id.

         A party may request documents “in the responding party's possession, custody, or control.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a)(1). A request is adequate if it describes items with “reasonable particularity”; specifies a time, place, and manner for the inspection; and specifies the form or forms in which electronic information can be produced. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b). “Thus, a request is sufficiently clear if it places the party upon reasonable notice of what is called for and what is not.” Richmond v. Mission Bank, 2015 WL 1637835, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 13, 2015) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The responding party must respond in writing and is obliged to produce all specified relevant and nonprivileged documents, tangible things, or electronically stored information in its “possession, custody, or control” on the date specified. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). Alternatively, a party may state an objection to a request. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2)(C).

         II. DISCUSSION

         In May 2015, a number of individuals (“Relators”) filed this qui tam action under the False Claim Act on behalf of the United States, naming IASIS Healthcare LLC (“IASIS”) and Health Choice of Arizona, Inc. (“HCA”) as Defendants.[1] The United States declined to intervene. (Doc. 13). Relators are current and former employees of Defendant HCA or one of its affiliates. (Doc. 109 at 2). HCA is a wholly owned subsidiary of IASIS and contracts with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (“AHCCCS”), which is the agency that administers the State of Arizona's Medicaid program. (Id.). HCA provides healthcare services to Arizona Medicaid enrollees through subcontracted providers. (Id.). This action concerns the State of Arizona's capitation payments to HCA, which include sums expressly allotted to compensate HCA for federally mandated cost containment programs. (Doc. 166 at 2). Relators state that “HCA has admitted that the prior authorization (‘PA') of medical services is one of those ‘core' and ‘important' programs for which AHCCCS paid HCA administrative fees.” (Id.). Relators allege that HCA “decided to cheat on its PA program by automatically approving tens of thousands of PA requests through a process called ‘administrative approval, ' without performing any part of the required medical necessity review; and then hiding their failures from the State.” (Id.).

         There are a number of disputes regarding discovery requests contained in Relators' third set of Requests for Production of Documents (“RFP Set Three”) that were served on Defendants on January 25, 2018. The Joint Notice filed on April 12, 2018 addresses RFP Set Three No. 11, along with a dispute concerning a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice. (Doc. 162). The two Joint Notices (Docs. 166, 170) filed on April 25, 2018 concern RFP Set Three Nos. 8, 10, 12, and 13. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny Relators' requests contained in the Joint Notices (Docs. 162, 166, 170).

         A. “Joint Notice of Discovery Dispute on Plaintiffs-Relators' Requests for Production of Documents, Set Three, and 30(B)(6) Deposition Notice” (Doc. 162)

         On December 12, 2017, Relators issued a Rule 30(b)(6) Notice for HCA's testimony on:

The relationship between HCA and Instream (and/or IASIS and Instream) including, contractual terms and obligations, any personal, family or non-business relationship between those who work or worked at or invested in HCA (or IASIS) and those who work or worked at or invested in Instream.

         (Doc. 162 at 3).

         In RFP Set Three No. 11, Relators requested:

All Documents and Communications that relate to any contract, relationship, or agreement between InStream, and HCA and/or IASIS, including the actual contracts and communications (whether internal to IASIS, interdental to HCA, between IASIS and HCA, or ...

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