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Melvin v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

November 20, 2017

PAMELA MELVIN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; GUARDIAN HART MEDICAL CARE; TRACY NAYLOR also known as TRACY HAUKER; GINGER HUNSUCKER; KATHY REED; VENKATA G. BOODULURI; MASSEY HILL DRUG COMPANY, INC.; MASSEY HILL PHARMACY, LLC; and JONNA SQUIRES; Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on plaintiff's response to court order dated September 29, 2017, which the court construes as including a motion for reconsideration brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). (DE 108). Also before the court is response of defendant United States of America (“United States”) to the court's September 29, 2017, order (DE 107), and plaintiff's motion to seal (DE 103). In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the court grants in part and denies in part plaintiff's motion for reconsideration and motion to seal.

         BACKGROUND

         The court refers to and incorporates statements of the case and facts provided in its previous orders. Pertinent here, plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this action on February 22, 2016 against the United States, Guardian Hart Medical Care (“Guardian”), Tracy Naylor (“Naylor”), Ginger Hunsuker (“Hunsucker”), Kathy Reed (“Reed”), Venkata G. Booduluri (“Booduluri”), Massey Hill Drug Company, Inc. (“MHDC”), Massey Hill Pharmacy, LLC (“MHP”), and Jonna Squires (“Squires”).

         Plaintiff asserted a claim for negligence against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq. for its alleged failure to provide plaintiff medical care at a Veterans Health Administration (“VHA”) facility. Plaintiff also asserted common law breach of contract and conspiracy claims against defendant Guardian. Plaintiff asserted various conspiracy claims against the remaining defendants.[1]

         On September 13, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for entry of default against defendant Guardian. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), the court granted that motion on November 23, 2016.

         On October 4, 2016, the United States filed a motion for summary judgment against plaintiff on the basis that plaintiff's claim was time-barred, or in the alternative, without merit. Prior to filing response to the United States's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff filed a number of motions, including three motions to stay, a motion for subpoenas, and a motion for default judgment, or alternatively a motion for partial summary judgment against the United States.[2]

         By text order dated May 4, 2017, the court denied plaintiff's third motion to stay, and directed plaintiff to file any further response to the United States's motion for summary judgment, beyond the scope of her motion for subpoenas and motion for default judgment by May 14, 2017. Over the United States's objection, the court ultimately extended plaintiff's response time to May 30, 2017.

         On May 30, 2017, plaintiff filed a second motion for partial summary judgment, alternatively motion for default judgment against the United States, with several exhibits attached thereto. That same date, plaintiff filed response to the United States's motion for summary judgment. On June 12, 2017, plaintiff filed a third motion for summary judgment against the United States.

         On June 13, 2017, the United States filed a motion to strike several of plaintiff's filings.[3]Thereafter plaintiff filed two separate motions for judgment on the pleadings against the United States (DE 86, 88), two motions for sanctions against the United States (DE 89, 100), a motion for default judgment against defendant Guardian (DE 102), a motion for recusal (DE 104), and a motion for protective order (DE 105). On September 11, 2017, plaintiff filed the instant motion to seal. (DE 103).

         On September 29, 2017, the court entered an order denying plaintiff's various dispositive motions against the United States and granting the United States's motion for summary judgment. (DE 106). The court also denied as moot plaintiff's motion for subpoenas, plaintiff's motion for protective order, and the United States's motion to strike. With regard to defendant Guardian, the court set aside its prior entry of default and denied plaintiff's motion for default judgment on the basis that plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to establish claims for breach of contract and civil conspiracy against defendant Guardian. The court's order did not specifically address plaintiff's motion to seal.

         The court's September 29, 2017, order also provided two directives to the parties. First, where the order relied upon sealed documents, the court directed the parties to jointly submit to the court a copy of its order marked to reflect any perceived necessary redactions. Upon the court's inspection and approval, a redacted copy of the sealed order would be made part of the public record. Second, where plaintiff failed to effect service upon defendants Naylor, Hunsuker, Reed, Booduluri, MHDC, MHP, and Squires (together, the “unserved defendants”), the court directed plaintiff to show cause within 21 days why the court should not dismiss her case against the unserved defendants for failure to perfect service. The court indicated that failure by plaintiff to show cause within the appropriate time would result in dismissal without prejudice against the unserved defendants.

         On October 13, 2017, plaintiff filed the instant response to the court's September 29, 2017 order, with a proposed redacted copy of the court's order attached thereto. Where plaintiff's response and proposed redactions consist of objections to the court's September 29, 2017, order, the court construes plaintiff's response as a motion for reconsideration. Pursuant to the court's directive, the United States filed response to the court's September 29, 2017, order on October 16, 2017. Where the court's sealed September 29, 2017, order does not reference any confidential medical information not already available on the public record, the United States contends that no text in the order should remain under seal.

         COURT'S DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Seal

         Plaintiff seeks to seal several exhibits which are attached to her motion for default judgment against defendant Guardian. (See DE 102-2; 102-3; 102-4; 102-6; 102-7; 102-8; 102-9; 102-10; 102-11; 102-12; 102-13; and 102-14).

         After examining the exhibits at issue, the court finds that those exhibits consisting of plaintiff's medical records and bills (DE 102-6; 102-7; 102-8; 102-9; 102-10; 102-11; 102-13; and 102-14) contain confidential information about plaintiff's medical condition and treatment. Accordingly, to the extent plaintiff seeks to seal the medical records and bills ...


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