Are claims manuals “confidential business information” or “trade secrets” entitled to a protective order restricting dissemination? YES
Can the Plaintiff’s attorney keep the claims manual for use on another case? NO.
Here’s the recent opinion issued in Takata v. Hartford Comprehensive Benefit Service Company and Battelle Memorial Institute, __ F.Supp. 2d __ (E. D. Washington June 29, 2012) (publication pending) (PDF attached here).
FACTS: This case involves an ongoing claim for long term disability benefits under an ERISA plan. Plaintiff sought Hartford’s claims handling policies, manuals and claims handling information. Plaintiff’s counsel refused to enter into a protective order because he “want[ed] to be able to use whatever I get in another case against Hartford should one arise.” Hartford moved for a protective order.
HELD: Motion for Protective Order GRANTED.
Claims manuals are “confidential business information.” The information “is the result of many years of business and ‘extensive research.’” Op. at 7
The information contained in claims manuals creates a protectable “competitive advantage”. Op. at 7
“[P]ublic disclosure of this information would harm Hartford, [and] that competitive advantage would be lost if the information becomes public or known to competitors, and that trade secret status would be destroyed.” Op. at 7
“Plaintiff’s counsel may not retain the information to use in any other case.” Op. at 8
This opinion may help in your next motion on the topic…