United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.
March 17, 2017, the Court ordered the production of relevant
aspects of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's
(“MetLife”) group disability Claim Management
Guidelines (“CMG”). (Dkt. No. 31.) Before
producing the relevant portions of the CMG, MetLife sought to
execute a Protective Order. (Dkt. No. 36-1.) Plaintiff
rejected the terms of the protective order. (Dkt. No. 36-2.)
MetLife then sought leave of the court to file a motion for a
protective order, which the Court granted on April 19, 2017.
(Dkt. No. 33.) On April 26, 2017, MetLife filed its motion
for a protective order. (Dkt. No. 34.) For the reasons that
follow, MetLife's motion is now granted.
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1) states that “[t]he
court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party
or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue
burden or expense.” This includes “requiring that
a trade secret or other confidential research, development,
or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only
in a specified way.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)(G).
“Courts in this circuit have noted that, ‘[f]or
purposes of a protective order, “good cause” is
established when a party is able to show that a
“clearly defined, specific and serious injury”
will occur in the absence of such an order.'”
Qube Films Ltd. v. Padell, No. 13 Civ. 8405, 2015 WL
109628, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 5, 2015) (quoting McDonnell
v. First Unum Life Ins. Co., No. 10 Civ. 8140, 2012 WL
13933, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2012)). A party moving for a
protective order may not rely on “[b]road allegations
of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated
reasoning, ” to carry its burden. Id. (quoting
McDonnell, 2012 WL 13933, at *3) (internal quotation
MetLife provides a declaration of one of its Managers, Laura
Sullivan. (Dkt. No. 35.) That declaration provides that
“MetLife does not produce the CMG to its competitors,
customers, or members of the general public, ” and that
“access to the CMB (or to any portion thereof) by
competitors would allow them to utilize MetLife's claim
handling procedures . . . without investing the considerable
time, resources and expense invested by MetLife in developing
the CMG.” (Id. ¶ 6.) Such a competitor
could use MetLife's CMG “to gain a competitive
advantage by copying and implementing the procedures that
MetLife has developed over the course of many years, and at
great expense, ” resulting “in a cost savings for
competitors as well as a competitive advantage.”
(Id. ¶ 9.) This constitutes good cause
sufficient to grant MetLife's motion. See Liyan He v.
Cigna Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., No. 14 Civ. 2180, 2015 WL
4114523, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 8, 2015) (granting motion for a
protective order where disclosure of the document would give
competitors a “competitive advantage” in the form
of a “cost savings”).
objections are unavailing. Plaintiff's primary objection
to the protective order is that it prohibits Plaintiff from
being able to use the CMG in similar future litigations
against MetLife subject to the same protective order. (Dkt.
No. 36-2.) This is an inappropriate basis on which to object.
Should Plaintiff encounter MetLife in subsequent actions, it
is free to seek the production of any relevant portion of the
CMG under the circumstances, and the presiding Judge can rule
on such a request.
also relies on Levy v. Ina Life Ins. Co. of N.Y.,
No. 05 Civ. 10310, 2006 WL 3316849 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 14, 2006),
to argue that the CMG cannot be deemed confidential at all
because Department of Labor (“DOL”) regulations
require claim fiduciaries to disclose relevant procedural
guidelines used to process claims. (See Dkt. No. 38
at 2-3.) But the DOL's concern, according to Plaintiff,
is that claim fiduciary might rely on an internal rule of
confidentiality to refuse to disclose the relevant guidelines
to the claimant. (Id. at 3.) Here, MetLife
objects not to the disclosure of the information to the
claimant, but to an unknown class of potential future
Plaintiffs and competitors. And in Levy, moreover,
the movant failed to make “any factual showing that
disclosure of the material would cause actual harm” and
submitted “no affidavit from any person with knowledge
of the insurance business articulating the basis for any
claim of competitive injury.” 2006 WL 3316849, at *2.
Ms. Sullivan's declaration articulates a basis for
competitive injury and explains the steps MetLife has taken
to ensure the confidentiality of the CMG. (Dkt. No. 35 ¶
foregoing reasons, MetLife's motion for a protective
order is GRANTED. Plaintiff shall not publicly disseminate
the portions of the CMG produced by MetLife in this action
and shall use those portions only in this action.
parties are directed to submit a stipulated protective order
by May 19, 2017. The parties should also meet and confer in
order to propose to the Court whether the fact discovery
deadline and/or the summary judgment briefing schedule
require extension by May 19, 2017.
Clerk of Court is directed to close the motions at ...