United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
Benson District Judge.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
M. Warner Chief United States Magistrate Judge.
Judge Dee Benson referred this case to Chief Magistrate Judge
Paul M. Warner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A). Before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion
to Conduct Discovery. The court has carefully reviewed the
written memoranda submitted by the parties. Pursuant to Civil
Rule 7-1(f) of the Rules of Practice for the United States
District Court for the District of Utah, the court has
concluded that oral argument is not necessary and will
determine the motion on the basis of the written memoranda.
See DUCivR 7-1(f). For the following reasons,
Plaintiffs' motion is granted.
Randall R. and Alisa R. (“Plaintiffs”) are
participants in a self-funded employee welfare benefits plan
subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”). See 29 U.S.C. § 2001
et seq. Plaintiff Kara R. (“K.R.”) is
the child of Randall R. and Alisa R., and a beneficiary of
the health plan. K.R. received inpatient residential
treatment at Youth Care for mental health and substance abuse
related issues at various periods throughout 2014 and 2015.
Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah
(“Defendant”), the insurer and claims
administrator, denied payment for K.R.'s treatment at
Youth Care from May 22, 2015 forward on the basis that
K.R.'s condition did not meet Defendant's necessity
criteria for continued stay at the chemical dependence
residential level of care at Youth Care.
exhausted the appeals process, Plaintiffs filed suit against
Defendant asserting a claim for benefits under ERISA,
see 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), and a claim for
violation of the Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act
(“Parity Act”), see 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a)(3), for mental health and substance abuse benefits.
instant motion, Plaintiffs move the court for permission to
conduct discovery regarding the Parity Act claim. Defendant
oppose discovery of this claim arguing they anticipate filing
a motion for judgment on the pleadings as they believe the
claim is “deficient on its face.” Defendant asserts
the Parity Act claim “is nothing more than a
re-packaged § 1132(a)(1)(B) claim for benefits”
and discovery is typically not allowed in ERISA benefit
claims. In response, Plaintiffs assert the
discovery is necessary to properly evaluate the Parity Act
claim. Plaintiffs also filed a motion for leave to file a
second amended complaint to state the Parity Act claims more
clearly, which the court granted on December 12,
motion before the court relates to discovery. “The
district court has broad discretion over the control of
discovery, and [the Tenth Circuit] will not set aside
discovery rulings absent an abuse of that discretion.”
Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. Merrill Scott &
Assocs., Ltd., 600 F.3d1262, 1271 (10th Cir. 2010)
(quotations and citations omitted).
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, considering 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. Information within this scope of discovery need not
be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). While discovery is generally not
necessary for ERISA claims, see Murphy v.
Deloitte & Touche Group Ins. Plan, 619 F.3d 1151,
1162-63 (10th Cir. 2010), “the nature of Parity Act
claims is that they generally require further discovery to
evaluate whether there is a disparity between the
availability of treatments for mental health and substance
abuse disorders and treatment for medical/surgical
conditions.” Robert L. v. Cigna Health & Life
Ins. Co., No. 2:18-CV-976 RJS DBP, 2019 WL 6220062, at
*2 (D. Utah Nov. 21, 2019).
Plaintiffs are legally entitled to conduct discovery on their
Parity Act claim. For these types of claims, discovery is
essential to allow Plaintiffs to learn and compare processes,
strategies, evidentiary standards, and other factors
Defendant used to show whether mental health and substance
abuse benefits were discerningly limited. Defendant cannot
avoid discovery simply because it anticipates filing a motion
for judgment on the pleadings. Moreover, the court granted
Plaintiffs' motion to amend complaint wherein Plaintiffs
distinguish the Parity Act claim from the ERISA benefits
claim more clearly. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion is
granted. Plaintiffs may conduct discovery as to the Parity
Act claim only. In regard to the ERISA benefits claim,
Plaintiffs shall not attempt to obtain indirectly what they
cannot obtain directly. See, e.g., ...