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Feinwachs v. Minnesota Hospital Association

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 13, 2018

David Feinwachs, Individually, and as Relator for United States of America, Plaintiffs,
v.
Minnesota Hospital Association and MCCA, Defendants.

          Brian E. Wojtalewicz, Esq., Wojtalewicz Law Firm, Ltd., Appleton, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

          Elizabeth S. Gerling and Lee A. Lastovich, Esqs., Jackson Lewis P.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendants.

          ORDER

          STEVEN E. RAU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the undersigned on Plaintiff David Feinwachs's (“Feinwachs”) and Defendants Minnesota Hospital Association (“MHA”) and MCCA's, a subsidiary of MHA (collectively, “Defendants”), cross-motions for Further Consideration of Sealing [Doc. Nos. 145, 157]. This matter was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendants' Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing, and grants in part and denies in part Feinwachs's Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The underlying litigation involves Feinwachs's allegations that he was improperly terminated from his job as general counsel for Defendants. See generally (Third Am. Compl.) [Doc. No. 43]. Currently before the Court are the parties' motions regarding the continued sealing of documents [Doc. Nos. 115, 118-127, 131, 135-137] originally filed under seal. In support of continued sealing, the parties also filed additional documents under seal which the Court reviews for continued sealing when analyzing the parties' respective motions. See [Doc. Nos. 146, 148-150, 152-153, 162-165, 168-171].

         As required under the Local Rules, the parties first submitted a Joint Motion Regarding Continued Sealing (“Joint Motion”) [Doc. No. 142]. Of the identified documents, the parties agreed that Brunner deposition excerpts [Doc. No. 137] should not remain sealed.[1] See (Joint Mot. at 13-14). The parties could not agree on the remaining documents. (Id. at 1-13). The Court denied the parties' Joint Motion. (Text Only Order Dated June 27, 2017) [Doc. No. 143]. The parties filed their respective Motions for Further Consideration of Sealing thereafter. (Pl.'s Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing); (Defs.' Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing).

         With respect to Feinwachs's Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing, Feinwachs asserts that his medical information should not be disclosed because he is asserting “‘garden variety' emotional distress damages” as a result of “being fired from a 29-year career” and has not put his medical condition at issue because he “did not seek treatment for the emotional distress, and will not be calling an expert witness on the subject.” (Pl.'s Mem. for Mot. for Further Consideration of Sealing, “Pl.'s Mem. in Supp.”) [Doc. No. 146 at 2]. As a result, Feinwachs “requests prevention of any such disclosure at hearings or trial of this case, or to the public in any manner.” (Id. at 1). In support, Feinwachs submitted a memorandum, a declaration, and exhibits, each filed under seal. See (Pl.'s Mem. in Supp.); (Decl. of David Feinwachs for Mot. for Further Consideration of Sealing, “Feinwachs Decl. in Supp. of Sealing”) [Doc. No. 148]; (Ex. 1 to Feinwachs Decl. in Supp. of Sealing) [Doc. No. 149]; (Ex. 2 to Feinwachs Decl. in Supp. of Sealing) [Doc. No. 150]. Also, as required under the Local Rules, Feinwachs submitted a Meet and Confer Statement [Doc. No. 152] and a Proposed Order [Doc. No. 153] along with his motion. See LR 7.1. The Meet and Confer and Proposed Order were also filed under seal. (Meet & Confer Statement); (Proposed Order).

         Defendants object to Feinwachs's Motion for Further Consideration, in large part because Defendants assert that Feinwachs is attempting to improperly use the sealing rules as an ad hoc motion in limine. See generally (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. for Further Consideration of Sealing “Defs.' Resp.”) [Doc. No. 168]. Defendants argue that “Local Rule 5.6 does not allow Plaintiff the opportunity to litigate trial issues before Summary Judgment is even decided.” (Id. at 3). In particular, Defendants assert that Chief Judge Tunheim's practice pointers state unequivocally that “he decide motions in limine.” (Id.). Defendants, however, do “not oppose continued sealing of Plaintiff's deposition testimony concerning his medical information filed as an exhibit in support of Summary Judgment.” (Id.).

         With respect to Defendants' motion and relevant to the determination before the Court, Feinwachs brought both federal and state actions related to his termination from MHA. See (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Further Consideration of Sealing, “Defs.' Mem. in Supp.”) [Doc. No. 159 at 2]; (Pl.'s Mem. Opposing Defense Mot. for Further Consideration of Sealing, “Pl.'s Resp.”) [Doc. No. 173 at 2-3]. As a result, certain documents in the Ramsey County District Court action were filed under a protective order. See (Ex. 49, Attached to Decl. of Elizabeth S. Gerling, “Gerling Decl.”) [Doc. No. 117-3 at 200-22] (copies of two orders: (1) the Ramsey County protective order; and (2) an order denying Feinwachs's motion in Ramsey County District Court to modify the protective order).[2]

         At the hearing before the undersigned on the parties' cross-motions, Feinwachs asserted that many documents filed under seal in this case do not merit protection on the basis of the protective order filed in Ramsey County District Court because the documents were publically available. In support of this argument, Feinwachs filed a declaration stating he was able to obtain certain documents at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. See (Second Decl. of David Feinwachs on Continued Sealing Mot. of Defs., “Second Feinwachs Decl.”) [Doc. No. 177].

         Defendants, however, argue that the Ramsey County District Court judge's protective order has not been vacated. See (Second Decl. of Elizabeth S. Gerling, “Second Gerling Decl.”) [Doc. No. 178 ¶¶ 8-11, 13]. Defendants assert that many of the documents proffered by Feinwachs in support of his argument that documents are publically available are not the documents at issues in Defendants' Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing. (Id. ¶ 3). To the extent that Feinwachs was able to obtain any of the documents at issue, Defendants are unsure why Feinwachs was able to obtain them, but surmise it was because he was a party to the litigation in Ramsey County District Court. (Id. ¶ 12). Regardless, because the Ramsey County District Court judge's protective order is still operative, Defendants argue that it controls and that documents subject to it should remain sealed. See (id. at ¶¶ 14-15); (Def.'s Mem. in Supp at 2-3, 11-15).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Because Feinwachs has justified continued sealing for only some of the documents he requested, the Court grants in part and denies in part Feinwachs's Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing. Furthermore, because the documents at issue in Defendants' Motion for Further Consideration of Sealing are subject to a Ramsey County District Court judge's protective order, this ...


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