Filing. Published in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division on August 3, 2020 (Case no. 2:17-cv-00435-DBB-DAO).
Background. Plaintiff’s son received treatment at a RTC facility for 8 months. After the first 5 weeks, coverage was denied by TPA Defendant. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against Defendants United Healthcare Services, United Behavioral Health and Keysight Medical Plan. The Defendants moved to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ Parity Act claim outlined in the second amended complaint. But the lower court judge denied the motion, finding the Plaintiffs stated a plausible claim for an as-applied parity violation. Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed a discovery motion and Defendants now oppose the motion, arguing “the heart” of the Plaintiffs’ claims is the recovery of benefits under ERISA and, as such, discovery should be limited to the production of the administrative record.
Holding. Judge Daphne A. Oberg granted Plaintiffs motion to conduct discovery. The Court is permitting the Plaintiffs to conduct discovery on the Parity Act She also ruled that Defendants’ arguments directed at the relevance, scope, and proportionality of proposed discovery requests are premature at this time, since the discovery requests have not yet been served.
Analysis. Among other findings the Court reaffirmed that a Parity Act 1132 (a)(3) claim is legally and factually separate from an ERISA recovery of benefits 1132(a)(1)(B) claim. Therefore, additional discovery is necessary when the Plaintiffs allege an as-applied violation of the Parity Act. The Judge also noted that limiting discovery to the plan documents and prelitigation appeal record, as the Defendants propose, will improperly hamstring the Plaintiffs’ ability to prove a violation of the Parity Act as applied. As noted above, she also ruled that objections based on the relevance, scope and proportionality of the requests is premature that this juncture.
Editorial Comment. Similar to the DK v UBH case, it will be interesting to see whether the courts limit additional discovery motions in the future based on relevance, scope and proportionality as the details come out in specific cases. Hopefully, not.