Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. Trinity Medical Management, L.L.C.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 26, 2018

MICHAEL WILLIAMS
v.
TRINITY MEDICAL MANAGEMENT, L.L.C.

         SECTION: “G” (1)

          NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN JUDGE

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANIS VAN MEERVELD MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion to Quash Depositions filed by Hyperion Safety Services, L.L.C. and Trinity Medical Management, L.L.C. (collectively “Hyperion”) on February 14, 2018. (Rec. Doc. 33). The Court expedited the Motion and plaintiff Michael Williams filed a memorandum in opposition on February 16, 2018. The Court held a telephone conference regarding the Motion on February 20, 2018, at which time the Court granted the motion in part, quashing the deposition of Mike Helm.[1] This Order and Reasons concerns the remaining issue: the depositions of Hyperion's former counsel Kathleen Rice and Danica Denny. Rice and Denny also filed a Motion to Quash (Rec. Doc. 35) raising the same concerns as Hyperion and adding their argument that they were improperly served because the subpoenas were served on administrative staff and not on them personally and the subpoenas did not provide a reasonable time for compliance.

         For the following reasons, Hyperion's Motion to Quash (Rec. Doc. 33) is DENIED; and the Motion to Quash filed by Rice and Denny (Rec. Doc. 35) is DENIED.

         Background

         Williams filed a Jones Act claim against Hyperion on January 5, 2015, for injuries he allegedly sustained working as a safety representative for Hyperion when he slipped and fell on some ice on January 5, 2014 (the “Original Hyperion Litigation”). Hyperion says Williams' seaman status was hotly contested in the Original Hyperion Litigation. That case went to mediation on January 11, 2016, at which time the parties agreed to a settlement. The written Receipt, Release and Indemnification Agreement (“Settlement Agreement”) was dated February 6, 2016, and included a provision pursuant to which Williams agreed to “defend, indemnify and hold harmless [the Defendants] from and against any and all claims arising out of the incident, including, but not limited to any contribution or tort indemnity claims by U.S. Well Services, L.L.C, and Inflection Energy, L.L.C.” The Settlement Agreement also provided that “[i]t is specifically understood and agreed that Michael Williams reserves all rights he may have against Inflection Energy LLC and U.S. Well Services, LLC.”

         On the same day he filed the Original Hyperion Litigation, Williams also filed a lawsuit against U.S. Well Services, L.L.C. (“U.S. Well”) and Inflection Energy, L.L.C., arising out of the same January 5, 2014, incident (the “Pennsylvania Litigation”). That suit was transferred to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. On September 22, 2015, U.S. Well filed a third-party complaint against Hyperion seeking contribution and indemnification from Hyperion based on a Master Service Agreement between them. The Pennsylvania Litigation was pending at the time the Settlement Agreement was entered into, and it remains pending today. Hyperion says that in agreeing to the defense indemnity clause in the Settlement Agreement, Plaintiff agreed to indemnify Hyperion against the contractual claims of U.S. Well. Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit for a declaratory judgment that he is not obligated by the Settlement Agreement to defend and indemnify Hyperion with respect to the Pennsylvania Litigation. Hyperion has asserted a counterclaim seeking a judgment that Williams is obligated to defend and indemnify them against the Pennsylvania Litigation.

         In his Complaint, Williams urges that the defense and indemnity provision (1) irreconcilably conflicts with another provision of the Settlement Agreement providing that the parties specifically understand that Williams was reserving his rights against Inflection Energy LLC and U.S. Well Services LLC, (2) is equivocal because it does not mention contractual indemnity and tort indemnity is nonexistent, (3) violates public policy because it would create a conflict of interest if Williams' counsel “might have to defend one client at another's-an adversary's-expense, ” and (4) is unconscionable because Williams is a Jones Act seaman and ward of admiralty who did not have an informed understanding of Hyperion's interpretation of the Settlement Agreement. In opposition to Hyperion's pending motion for summary judgment, Williams further argues that his understanding of the Settlement Agreement was not that he was undertaking a defense and indemnity obligation for costs related to his own personal injury lawsuit. He adds that he was not properly compensated for undertaking such an obligation. Although a “Certificate of Attorney” was signed by Williams' attorney on February 10, 2016, providing that the attorney had “fully explained to Mr. Williams all of his rights against the parties released under the applicable law . . . including the indemnity obligations” and that “Williams confirmed to [the attorney] that he fully understood all of his rights and the significance of the release he is to execute, ” Williams testified at his deposition that the release was never explained to him.

         Hyperion has deposed Williams regarding his recollections of the mediation and entering into the Settlement Agreement. Hyperion has also deposed the attorney that represented Williams during the Original Hyperion Litigation regarding the mediation and Settlement Agreement. Williams now seeks to depose Hyperion's counsel at the time of the mediation. He seeks the discovery of “representations of Hyperion during the settlement process” and argues that what transpired during the mediation and what Hyperion said about settlement will become relevant at the trial that will ensue if the court cannot interpret the Settlement Agreement as a matter of law. (Rec. Doc. 37, at 2-3). Hyperion has moved to quash the depositions of its former attorneys Rice and Danica, arguing their testimony is irrelevant. As noted, Rice and Denny also filed a Motion to Quash raising the same concerns as Hyperion and adding their argument that they were improperly served because the subpoenas were served on administrative staff and not on them personally and the subpoenas did not provide a reasonable time for compliance.

         Law and Analysis

         1. Scope of Discovery

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “parties 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. Proc. 26(b)(1). Of note, with the 2015 amendment to Rule 26, it is now clear that “[i]nformation within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Id. In assessing proportionality of discovery, the following should be considered: “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.” Id. The advisory committee comments to the 2015 amendment to Rule 26 make clear that the parties and the court have a collective responsibility to ensure that discovery is proportional. The party claiming it would suffer an undue burden or expense is typically in the best position to explain why, while the party claiming the information sought is important to resolve the issues in the case should be able “to explain the ways in which the underlying information bears on the issues as that party understands them.” Id. advisory committee comments to 2015 amendment. “The court's responsibility, using all the information provided by the parties, is to consider these and all the other factors in reaching a case-specific determination of the appropriate scope of discovery.” Id.

         2. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.