United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION & ORDER
L. WALDOR United States Magistrate Judge.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Jionni
Conforti's Motion to Quash Subpoenas and For a Protective
Order. (ECF No. 69). The Court heard oral argument on June
20, 2019, and, for the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED in part
and DENIED in part.
January 5, 2017, Plaintiff Jionni Conforti
(“Conforti”) filed this action against Defendants
St. Joseph's Healthcare System, Inc.
(“SJHS”), St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical
Center (d/b/a St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center)
(“SJRMC”), and Father Martin D. Rooney, who
serves as St. Joseph's Health Care System's Director
of Pastoral Care and Mission Services.
action arises out of Defendants' allegedly unlawful
refusal to schedule a hysterectomy for Conforti at SJRMC for
discriminatory reasons. The following facts are taken from
the Complaint. In June 2014, Dr. Ian Tang diagnosed Conforti
with gender dysphoria, and Conforti started gender-confirming
hormone therapy under Dr. Tang's care. (Compl. ¶
55). In October 2014, Conforti underwent a double mastectomy
at a hospital in Texas. (Id. ¶ 56). Thereafter,
in consultation with Dr. Tang, Conforti decided to seek a
total hysterectomy and began the process of finding a
gynecological surgeon to perform the procedure. (Id.
¶¶ 57-58). Conforti was ultimately referred to Dr.
Brian Day, a surgeon and obstetrician at Totowa OB/GYN with
admitting privileges at SJRMC. (Id. ¶¶
obtained referral letters recommending a hysterectomy as a
medically necessary treatment from Dr. Ian Tang and therapist
Rissy Batista. (Id. ¶¶ 61-63). Conforti
then scheduled a June 16, 2015 consultation with Dr. Day.
(Id. ¶ 64). During this consultation, Dr. Day
informed Conforti that Defendant Father Rooney, Director of
Mission Services at SJHS, “would not allow [the]
surgery to be scheduled at SJHS's facilities, as the
surgery was being performed for the purposes of ‘gender
reassignment.'” (Id. ¶ 67). Father
Rooney subsequently sent an e-mail to Conforti stating,
“This is to follow up to your e-mail inquiring about
scheduling a total hysterectomy here at St. Joseph's to
remove all female parts based on the medical necessity for
Gender Reassignment. This is to inform you that as a Catholic
Hospital we would not be able to allow your surgeon to
schedule this surgery here at St. Joseph's.”
(Id. ¶ 69). Thus, Dr. Day did not perform
Conforti's hysterectomy at SJRMC, and Conforti ultimately
underwent a hysterectomy with Dr. Charles Haddad at
Mountainside Hospital in September 2015. (Pl.'s Br., ECF
No. 69-1, at p. 10).
alleges that Defendants denied him “the ability and
opportunity to schedule his hysterectomy at SJRMC because it
was related to the medically necessary treatment of gender
dysphoria, ” and thus discriminated against him on the
basis of his “sex, nonconformity with sex stereotypes,
gender identity, and transgender status.” (Compl.,
¶¶ 88, 99). On the basis of this alleged
discrimination, Conforti brings claims under Section 1557 of
the Affordable Care Act and the New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination (“NJLAD”). Conforti seeks multiple
forms of relief, including a declaratory judgment that
Defendants violated Section 1557 and NJLAD, a permanent
injunction modifying Defendants' practices and policies,
costs and fees, and compensatory and punitive damages.
last category of relief - compensatory damages for emotional
distress - is at the crux of the parties' dispute over
the proper scope of discovery from Conforti's medical
providers. In the Complaint, Conforti alleges that he has
“suffered emotional distress, humiliation, degradation,
embarrassment, emotional pain and anguish, violation of his
dignity, loss of enjoyment of life, and other compensatory
damages, in an amount to be established at trial.”
(Compl., ¶¶ 99, 101). Conforti seeks compensatory
damages for these emotional harms. (Id. at p. 25).
February 15, 2019, Conforti filed his Motion to Quash
Subpoenas and For a Protective Order. Conforti seeks two
forms of relief in his Motion: (1) an order quashing
Defendants' subpoenas to Conforti's medical
providers. These subpoenas seek depositions of six medical
providers and updated medical records; and (2) a protective
order preserving Conforti's Attorneys Eyes' Only
(“AEO”) designation for eighteen pages of his
medical records and the redaction of one note contained in
those medical records.
oppose Conforti's Motion in its entirety. Defendants
argue that the contested subpoenas fall within the scope of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), because these
providers' testimony and updated medical records are
highly relevant to Conforti's allegations and his damages
claim for emotional distress. In their Opposition, Defendants
identified two additional medical providers - OB/Gyn Dr.
Diana Vitale and neurologist Dr. Avery Katz - whose
depositions they now seek on the same basis as the original
six providers. (Def.'s Opp., ECF No. 73, at p. 13).
Defendants also oppose Plaintiff's AEO designations.
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows a party to obtain
information concerning “any matter, not privileged,
which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the
pending action.” Sanofi-Aventis v. Sandoz,
Inc., No. 03-6025, 2005 WL 6714281, at *1 (D.N.J. 2011).
The party seeking discovery must demonstrate that the
discovery request is “relevant to any party's claim
or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Pursuant to Rule 26(b)(1), the Court
may limit discovery when, among other things, “the
burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its
likely benefit.” Id. Under Rule 26(c), the
Court may, “for good cause, ” issue a protective
order to “protect a party or person from annoyance,
embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or
sought via a subpoena issued pursuant to Rule 45 must fall
within the scope of discovery permissible under Rule
26(b).” Gov't Employees Ins. Co. v.
Trnovski, No. CV 16-4662 (CCC), 2018 WL 5281424, at *2
(D.N.J. Oct. 23, 2018) (citing OMS Investments, Inc. v.
Lebanon Seaboard Corp., 2008 WL 4952445 (D.N.J. Nov. 18,
2008)). Under Rule 45(3)(A), “the court…must
quash or modify a subpoena that….requires disclosure
of privileged or other protected matter” or
“subjects a person to an undue burden.”
Conforti moves to quash third-party subpoenas issued to his
medical providers. Generally, courts afford greater
protection to non-parties in discovery, and nonparty
subpoenas must meet a higher standard of relevance than
subpoenas directed toward parties. See, e.g., Chazanow v.
Sussex Bank, No. 11-1094, 2014 WL 2965697, at *3 (D.N.J.
July 1, 2014); Kelley v. Enhanced Recovery Co., LLC,
no. CV 15-6527, 1016 WL 8673055 at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 7, 2016).
Because the third-party subpoenas here relate to
Conforti's medical information and Conforti claims his
medical information is privileged, he has standing to move to
quash the subpoenas. DIRECTV, Inc. v. Richards, No.
CIV. 03-5606 (GEB), 2005 WL 1514187, at *1 (D.N.J. June 27,
2005) (“A party lacks standing to seek the modification
or quashing of a subpoena upon a third party unless the party
claims a personal privilege is implicated.”).
Defendants do not contest Conforti's standing to bring
DEPOSITIONS OF MEDICAL PROVIDERS
seeks to block the depositions of six medical providers who
were subject to Defendants' initial round of subpoenas:
(1) Dr. Ian Tang, (2) Dr. Joseph Vitale and (3) Nurse
Practitioner Mary Vitale, (4) Dr. Charles Haddad, (5) Rissy
Batista, and (6) Vincent Fitzgerald. Importantly, Conforti
has already produced medical records from these six providers
for January 11, 2011 through August 23, 2018. Conforti also
objects to Defendants' proposed depositions of two newly
identified providers, OB/Gyn Dr. Diana Vitale and Dr. Avery
Court will permit the depositions of the following providers:
Dr. Ian Tang, Dr. Joseph Vitale, and Rissy Batista. These
providers' treatment of Conforti is directly intertwined
with the allegations in the Complaint concerning his gender
dysphoria diagnosis, his subsequent course of treatment, and
the emotional distress that he suffered upon Defendants'
denial of his hysterectomy. Moreover, these depositions have
a reasonable temporal scope, ...