A recent decision from a Nebraska federal court proves that while plaintiffs carefully guard their private personal information, it can be obtained by a defendant through discovery. In Garey Seger, et al. v. Tank Connection LLC, et al. (D. Neb.; 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49013), U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Thalken on April 22 ordered a Medicare beneficiary severely injured on the job to provide his health insurance claim number or social security number along with other identifying information to a defendant for querying and settlement purposes.
The claimant, Garey Seger, admitted to being enrolled in Medicare Part A but refused to provide identification numbers after multiple attempts by the defendant to obtain such information.
Defendant Roundtable, which provided design and engineering services, sent interrogatories to Seger requesting information about Medicare and Social Security benefits to aid its liability insurer in complying with the Medicare & Medicaid SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA) and to glean information about Seger’s damages. Seger responded but did not provide much of the information requested, contending that the information sought was irrelevant and the mandatory reporting obligation does not arise until a defendant has accepted liability. Roundtable sent subsequent requests for information, returned again incomplete.
Magistrate Judge Thalken granted a motion to compel by Roundtable, finding the information sought is relevant.
The judge noted that this information is not required until after a settlement or judgment, but “there is no harm to the plaintiffs in providing the information sooner.” However, he ruled that such information is not necessary to negotiate a settlement and the defendant does not need to know the upper limits of the claimant’s medical expenses, which can be gleaned from medical records already provided.
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