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United States ex rel. LaCorte v. Wyeth

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 12, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA et. Al Ex rel WILLIAM LaCORTE
v.
WYETH

         SECTION: “I”

          ORDER

          KAREN WELLS ROBY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Objection and Request to Quash Subpoena (Rec. Doc. 1) filed by J. Marc Vezina and Vezina & Gattuso (collectively, “Vezina”) who moves the Court to quash the subpoena issued by Sherif K. Sakla, MD, JD and the Sakla Law Firm, APLC (referred to as “the Sakla Group”) which was issued to the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University & Agriculture & Mechanical College seeking (1) testimony and (2) production of medical school records of non-party and former attorney of William LaCorte, J. Mar Vezina.

         I. Background

         This dispute is an in-rem proceeding involving three parties all who are law firms each claiming a contingency fee in a False Claims Act case in the United States District for the District of Massachusetts. The disputed funds were deposited in the registry of the Massachusetts court. Vezina therefor seeks to quash the subpoena seeking the production of his medical school records for the following reasons; (1) Vezina medical school records are not relevant to the fee dispute; (2) the subpoena is untimely because it was propounded on November 18, 2016, the discovery deadline with a return date of November 28, 2016; (3) The material sought to be produced violates the privacy protection afforded by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPPA”); and (4) the subpoena's return date provides only 5 days which was further shortened by the Thanksgiving Holiday.

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 26(b)(1) provides that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26(b)(1) specifies that “[i]nformation within the scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discovered.” The discovery rules are accorded a broad and liberal treatment to achieve their purpose of adequately informing litigants in civil trials. Hebert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 176 (1979). Nevertheless, discovery does have “ultimate and necessary boundaries.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978) (quoting Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947)). Furthermore, “it is well established that the scope of discovery is within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Coleman v. American Red Cross, 23 F.3d 1091, 1096 (6th Cir.1994).

         Rule 45 governs the issuance of subpoenas, and provides that on timely motion, the issuing court must quash or modify a subpoena if it requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, or otherwise subjects the subpoenaed person to undue burden. Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3). Under Rule 45(d)(1), “[a] party or attorney responsible for issuing and serving a subpoena must take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense on a person subject to the subpoena.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(1).

         Furthermore, Rule 45(d)(3)(A) further provides that:

         On timely motion, the issuing court must quash or modify a subpoena that:

(i) fails to allow a reasonable time to comply;
(ii) requires a person to comply beyond the geographical limits specified in Rule 45(c);
(iii) requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception ...

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