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West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. v. Rendell

June 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge


The background of this order is as follows. On January 11, 2006, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging violations of the United States Constitution's Equal Protection Clause and Commerce Clause, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the federal Medicaid program established under title XIX of the Social Security Act, which is codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 1396 et seq. (hereinafter "the Medicaid Act"), and the court's October 18, 1990 order in West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. v. Casey, docketed at Civil No. 1:86-0955.

On May 12, 2006, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 22) and a motion to enforce judgment (Doc. 25); the brief in support of both motions was filed on May 15, 2006 (Doc. 28). On June 15, 2006, Defendants filed a motion for discovery pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f) (Doc. 33), stating that discovery was required before they could adequately respond to Plaintiff's summary judgment arguments on the Equal Protection and Commerce Clause issues. Defendants also filed a brief opposing Plaintiff's motions (Doc. 34) that addressed only the issues pertaining to the Medicaid Act and judgment enforcement claims on June 16, 2006.*fn1

Defendants' brief in support of their Rule 56(f) motion argued that because Plaintiff's summary judgment motion was filed so early in the litigation, prior to any opportunity for discovery, the court should grant the Rule 56(f) discovery request "fairly freely." (See Doc. 33 at 1) (relying upon Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. The Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation, 323 F.3d 767, 773 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 n.5 (1986)). Otherwise, Defendants stated only that "they do not have sufficient information to permit them to submit opposing affidavits or otherwise respond to the averments in plaintiff's statement of undisputed material facts which support its claims premised upon the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause." (Doc. 33 at 2.) In addition, Defendants filed a declaration of William Miller (Doc. 32) that stated that Defendants lacked sufficient information to respond to averments in Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 statement of material facts, specifically the averments in paragraphs 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13-18, 20, 23-25, 40-43, 54-49, and 64. (Doc. 32, Miller Decl. ¶ 9.)

On June 23, 2006, the court held a telephonic conference call with the parties to try to clarify the nature and scope of Defendants' discovery request, during which Defendants' counsel maintained that general discovery was necessary in order to properly respond to the Commerce Clause and Equal Protection Clause issues raised in Plaintiff's summary judgment motion. On June 27, 2006, Plaintiff filed a motion to stay briefing pending the resolution of the Rule 56(f) motion (Doc. 36).

Rule 56(f) provides:

Should it appear from the affidavits of a party opposing the [summary judgment] motion that the party cannot for reasons stated present by affidavit facts essential to justify the party's opposition, the court may refuse the application for judgment or may order a continuance to permit affidavits to be obtained or depositions to be taken or discovery to be had or may make such other order as is just.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f). In the Third Circuit, the rule has been interpreted as requiring an affidavit, identification of the information sought, and explanations of how the desired information would prevent summary judgment and why it had not already been obtained. Pastore v. Bell Telephone Co., 24 F.3d 508, 510-11 (3d Cir. 1994); Dowling v. City of Phila., 855 F.2d 136, 139-40 (3d Cir. 1988). The case law reviewed by the court does not suggest that just because Rule 56(f) motions may be "fairly freely" granted at this stage of the proceedings, see Burlington Northern, 323 F.3d at 773, Defendants are relieved of these requirements.

Defendants' motion, supporting brief, and the attached declaration of William Miller fall short of Rule 56(f)'s requirements. Defendants fail to identify the scope of discovery sought with sufficient specificity or explain how the information would aid in opposing Plaintiff's summary judgment motion and why the information has not already been obtained.*fn2 Given the early stage of the proceedings, the court deems it just to require Defendants to file an amended motion that complies with the requirements of the rule. Accordingly, the court will also grant Plaintiff's motion to stay all further briefing in this matter pending the disposition of the amended Rule 56(f) motion.

In accordance with the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1) Defendants shall file an amended Rule 56(f) motion that complies with the requirements set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f), no later than July 10, 2006.

2) Plaintiff's motion to stay briefing is GRANTED. The schedule for briefing of Plaintiff's summary judgment motion is stayed ...

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