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Med Flight Air Ambulance, Inc. v. MGM Resorts International

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 18, 2017




         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff Med Flight Air Ambulance, Inc.'s motion to compel responses to court-authorized discovery on the issue of personal jurisdiction. [Doc. 39]. Med Flight contends that Defendant MGM Resorts International did not fully answer interrogatories 9, 10, and 12 along with requests for production 1-5.[1] MGM objected on numerous grounds, primarily centered on its belief that these requests were insufficiently tailored to the limited scope of discovery allowed. The Court heard oral argument on the on the motion on September 11, 2017, and took the matter under advisement. The Court now GRANTS IN PART AND DENYS IN PART Med Flight's motion to compel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Med Flight sued MGM and Defendant UMR, Inc., the administrator of MGM's self-insured employee plan, when they refused to pay Med Flight for the medivac of Adrian Hernandez from El Paso, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada.[2] [Doc. 14]. After the case was removed to this Court, MGM moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. [Doc. 21]. Although MGM concedes UMR has ties to New Mexico, MGM contends that New Mexico is a constitutionally inconvenient forum-MGM contends it has no presence, property, employees, or other connections that would render it amendable to suit here. [Doc. 21]. Before responding to MGM's motion to dismiss, Med Flight sought, and received, the Court's permission to conduct limited jurisdictional discovery. [Docs. 24, 33].

         In its May 26, 2017 order, the Court allowed Med Flight to propound fifteen interrogatories, fifteen requests for admission, and fifteen requests for production “narrowly tailored” to constitutional inconvenience factors outlined in Peay v. BellSouth Med. Assistance Plan, 205 F.3d 1206, 1212 (10th Cir. 2000). [Doc. 33]. Med Flight subsequently served its written discovery, and MGM tendered responses and objections. Dissatisfied with information given (and withheld), and after exchanging correspondence with MGM about the sufficiency of MGM's objections, Med Flight filed the instant motion to compel seeking complete answers to interrogatories 9, 10, 12 and requests for production 1-5. [Doc. 39].


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows the Court to limit discovery, including interrogatories and requests for production. See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a) & 34(a). Thus, the Court's requirement that Med Flight “narrowly tailor” its request to the Peay considerations controls, not Rule 26's broader “proportionality” provision that governs the usual case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) (providing that “[u]nless otherwise limited by court order . . . 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 . . . .”); Breakthrough Mgmt. Group, Inc. v. Chukchansi Gold Casino & Resort, 629 F.3d 1173, 1188 (10th Cir. 2010) (discussing the trial court's “wide discretion” to fashion discovery on jurisdictional contests).

         Under Peay, Med Flight's discovery must focus on (1) the extent of the defendant's contacts with the [forum]”; (2) “the inconvenience” of defending in a forum other than the defendant's place of business or residence, “including (a) the nature and extent and interstate character of the defendant's business, (b) the defendant's access to counsel, and (c) the distance from the defendant to the place where the action was brought”; (3) “judicial economy”; (4) “whether discovery proceedings will take place outside” the defendant's state(s); and (5) “the nature of the regulated activity in question and the extent of impact that the defendant's activities have beyond the borders of his state of residence or business.” 629 F.3d at 1188 (citation omitted). Within this scope, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 authorizes Med Flight to move to compel discovery responses that are incomplete or evasive where good faith attempts at resolving disputes have failed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Interrogatories

         In interrogatories 9, 10 and 12, Med Flight asked MGM to (1) describe UMR's claims processing duties under MGM's “self-insured health insurance plan” (No. 9); (2) identify lawsuits since 2010 MGM or “affiliate resort” employees in Maryland, New York, Mississippi, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts or Illinois have filed (No. 10); and (3) identify employees and agents involved in denying Med Flight's claim (No. 12). MGM did not answer interrogatory 9 and partially answered interrogatories 10 and 12. MGM justified its responses by interposing a laundry list of objections.[3] Only the common objection warrants analysis: MGM's claim that the interrogatories are not “narrowly tailored” to Peay factors.[4] The Court concludes the interrogatories all fall within Peay's ambit, but some of the requests require modification.

         Contrary to MGM's suggestion, the presence (or absence) of duties governing the processing of employee claims outside of Nevada, as sought in interrogatory 9, bears on the extraterritorial nature of MGM's operations as well as connection to the District of New Mexico. Similarly, the presence (or absence) of duties dictating where claims are processed could shed light on the situs of discovery. Without belaboring the point, interrogatory 10's request for lawsuits by MGM employees may demonstrate the national (or state specific) character of MGM's business. Basic information on pending litigation could also show (or disprove) that MGM defends actions in a multitude of jurisdictions that are neither MGM's principal place of business nor MGM's state of incorporation. The identity of employees involved in the claim denial, the subject of interrogatory 12, would allow Med Flight to verify MGM's blanket assertion that all employees are located in Nevada and independently research employees' connection to New Mexico (and other jurisdictions). Likewise, any agents involved in the decision making are relevant because an agent's contact with a forum may be imputed to the principal.[5] See Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Thyssen Mining Constr. of Can., 703 F.3d 488, 493-494 (10th Cir. 2012).

         The Court, however, agrees with MGM that interrogatory 9 temporally is too broad. The relevant duties are those in effect at the time Med Flight's claim was processed and ultimately denied. As written, interrogatory 10 is confusing. MGM is the only entity for which the Court authorized discovery; to the extent Med Flight seeks information on “affiliates, ” whatever the term may mean, the Court will not permit discovery. More than seven years of lawsuits also strikes the Court as unnecessary. While Med Flight understandably wants a full picture of MGM's litigation, this goal is achieved by limiting the timeframe from January of 2011 to October 2016, representing the five year period up until MGM finally denied payment. In sum, the Court orders MGM to answer interrogatory 9 and supplement interrogatories 10 and 12 subject to the foregoing clarifications and the parties' agreed upon confidentiality agreement.

         B. Requests ...

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