HomeHealth LawDiscovering Plaintiffs' Social Safety Numbers

Discovering Plaintiffs’ Social Safety Numbers

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Whereas placing collectively our current Camp Lejeune submit on deliberative course of privilege, we got here throughout one other discovery dispute that we’ve seen in prescription medical product legal responsibility mass tort litigation – plaintiffs refusing to supply their social safety numbers.  So we determined to try what’s on the market.  We discovered that “Courts have routinely ordered plaintiffs to reveal their social safety numbers when that info has some relevance to a declare, or protection, within the litigation.”  Karn v. PTS of America, LLC, 2021 WL 307412, at *5 (D. Md. Jan. 29, 2021).

In In re Camp Lejeune Water Litigation, 2023 WL 8824494 (E.D.N.C. Dec. 21, 2023), plaintiffs in over 1,000 lawsuits refused to produce both their birthdates or social safety numbers (“SS#”).  The apparent motive was to stop defendants from conducting any unbiased investigation, notably into the plaintiffs’ medical histories – despite the fact that by submitting go well with that they had positioned medical historical past at difficulty, thereby waiving any privilege.  Camp Lejeune held that each birthdates and SS#s have been topic to instant disclosure beneath Fed. R. Civ. P. (a)(1)(A)(i), despite the fact that not particularly listed, as a result of it was “primary info” essential to “the atypical course of investigating every grievance.”  2023 WL 8824494, at *2 (quotation and citation marks omitted).  “[I]t [wa]s undeniably harder for Defendant to decide on consultant ailments and plaintiffs if they can not get hold of information for nearly 90% of [the] plaintiffs” that had failed to supply this info voluntarily.  Id. at *3.  All plaintiffs submitting a brief type grievance have been “eligible for discovery” and subsequently required to product this info.  Id.

Within the class, reasonably than mass, motion contest, all opt-in plaintiffs in Rodriguez v. Niagara Cleansing Companies, Inc., 2010 WL 2573974 (S.D. Fla. June 24, 2010), have been required to supply their SS#s to the defendant.  Id. at *4.  The category motion opt-in types have been courtroom ordered and consented-to by plaintiffs’ counsel.  Id.  “Accordingly, the Plaintiffs might not unilaterally alter the Court docket’s Order by redacting parts of the Consent to Be part of Type.”  Id.

In Hinkle v. Continental Motors, Inc., 2018 WL 100965911 (M.D. Fla. April 18, 2018), the courtroom ordered private damage plaintiffs to show their SS#s over to the defendant.

[T]hey have refused with none good motive.  Clearly, Plaintiffs ought to have disclosed this and will likely be required to take action.  To safeguard the Plaintiffs’ private identification info, a protecting order is suitable.

Id. at *1. (quotation omitted).  Hinkle adopted Gober v. Metropolis of Leesburg, 197 F.R.D. 519 (M.D. Fla. 2000).  Gober rejected the proposition {that a} plaintiff’s SS# was privileged from discovery:

Plaintiff has not recognized a privilege that seems to be acknowledged beneath [applicable] regulation.  Subsequently, to the extent that Plaintiff’s objection to the deposition query is predicated on a “monetary privilege,” [it] is because of be overruled and Plaintiff is ordered to reveal the requested info. . . .  Plaintiff’s social safety quantity, is related and is fairly calculated to result in the invention of admissible proof.

Id. at 520-21.  See Id. at 522 (imposing sanctions as a result of “the Plaintiff’s social safety quantity just isn’t privileged info and could also be calculated to result in the invention of admissible proof”).

Equally, Breslin v. Dickinson Township, 2011 WL 1577840 (Magazine. M.D. Pa. April 26, 2011), the plaintiffs couldn’t withhold their SS# in an effort to stymie the defendant’s investigation of their medical histories.

Defendants are entitled to acquire the Plaintiffs’ Social Safety numbers. . . .  [Defendants] search this info with a view to get hold of medical and navy information from third events.  These information would comprise info related to the Plaintiffs’ damages claims, . . . since these information would offer medical histories of the Plaintiffs, medical histories which might reveal the extent to which they’ve suffered bodily or emotional misery.

Thus, these medical information have apparent relevance to any damages claims introduced by the Plaintiffs which can be premised upon bodily or emotional misery allegedly brought on by the Defendants’ conduct.  Subsequently, securing the Social Safety account info that’s crucial for acquiring these medical information from third events is clearly a related inquiry beneath Rule 26 of the Federal Guidelines of Civil Process.

Id. at *5.  See Katz v. Nationwide Board of Medical Examiners, 2016 WL 2744823, at *2 (Magazine. M.D. Pa. Might 10, 2016) (“reference to [SS#s] is a crucial aspect of a third-party subpoena for institutional information regarding a person equivalent to these sought by the defendants”).

The plaintiff in Heuskin v. D&E Transport, LLC, 2020 WL 1450575 (Magazine. D.N.M. March 25, 2020), failed to incorporate his SS# in a launch of medical information, thereby stopping the defendant from retrieving any information.  Id. at *9.  Plaintiff claimed this was a mistake, however had not produced the data, so a movement to compel was granted.  Id.  Likewise, in Marks v. U.S. Safety. Associates, Inc., 2008 WL 11337996 (N.D. Ala. Dec. 19, 2008), the plaintiff was compelled to supply her SS#, “offered that the events agree on a protecting order.”  Id. at *2.  Accord Archer v. Metropolis of Winter Haven, 2017 WL 3840435, at *5 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 1, 2017); Love v. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, 2011 WL 6012970, at *2 n.15 (S.D. Miss. Dec. 1, 2011); Saunders v. Knight, 2007 WL 1287901, at *2 (E.D. Cal. April 30, 2007); Jones v. J.C. Penney’s Dept. Shops, Inc., 228 F.R.D. 190, 197 n.13 (W.D.N.Y. 2005); Goodman v. Metropolis of New York, 2004 WL 1661105 *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 23, 2004); Elkins v. Broome, 2004 WL 3249257, at *2 (M.D.N.C. Jan. 12, 2004), aff’d, 122 F. Appx. 40 (4th Cir. 2005); Magedson v. Fina, 1993 WL 35261, at *4 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 10, 1993) (all requiring plaintiffs to disclose SS#s, topic to acceptable confidentiality protections).

A plaintiff’s continued failure to adjust to SS# discovery can lead to dismissal of the motion as a sanction.  In Taylor v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 2020 WL 1271579 (D. Nev. March 17, 2020), aff’d, 2021 WL 3721800 (ninth Cir. Aug. 23, 2021), the plaintiff was ordered to reveal her SS# however repeatedly refused to conform.  Id. at *1.  Plaintiff’s failure “render[ed] it practically unattainable for [the] case to proceed, as a result of with out this proof, Plaintiff will likely be unable to show her damages, and conversely, Defendant will likely be unable to correctly defend itself.”  Id.  Accordingly, plaintiff suffered dismissal, id. at *2, and the dismissal was affirmed on attraction.  Accord Vickers v. Mt. Morris Township Police Dept., 2022 WL 4820423, at *3 (Magazine. E.D. Mich. Aug. 17, 2022) (plaintiff’s refusal to reveal SS# required dismissal), adopted, 2022 WL 4715589 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 30, 2022).

Way more typically litigated are circumstances the place plaintiffs search SS# info from defendants, often for current or former staff who is perhaps witnesses or putative class members.  As a result of non-parties have not positioned waived any privateness rights by commencing litigation, “courts are reluctant to order the disclosure of a witness’ social safety quantity.”  Olson v. Lowe’s House Facilities, LLC, 2024 WL 25089, at *3 (Magazine. W.D. Ky. Jan. 2, 2024) (footnote omitted).  “Within the case of non-parties, as a result of people have a robust privateness curiosity of their Social Safety numbers, such numbers ought to typically not be disclosed absent a displaying of particularized want.”  Karn, 2021 WL 307412, at *5.  Thus, courts “have repeatedly declined to compel manufacturing of social safety numbers absent an indication by the plaintiff ‘with specificity’ that such delicate info is critical.”  Ramirez v. Liberty One Group LLC, 2023 WL 4541129, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. July 14, 2023) (quotation omitted).

Any suggestion that social safety numbers are routinely discoverable as ‘background info,’ is now not appropriate, if certainly it ever was” as a result of . . . “the scope of discovery licensed by Rule 26 (with out a courtroom order) has extra lately been narrowed, and the emergence of id theft as [a] main drawback has led to heightened consciousness of the necessity to take care of social safety numbers with higher care.”

Natkin v. American Osteopathic Assn., 2022 WL 19914189, at *4 (Magazine. D. Or. Might 11, 2022) (refusing to use Gober to discovery sought from a defendant), adopted in pertinent half, 2022 WL 3974536 (D. Or. Sept. 1, 2022) (quoting Bacchus v. Benson, 2007 WL 9736176, at *2 (N.D. Fla. Nov. 29, 2007)).

Witness SS#s are solely discoverable when the requestor has demonstrated their necessity by precise unsuccessful makes an attempt to contact such people, after which solely beneath strict confidentiality necessities.  Id.; see Vilella v. Pup Tradition LLC, 2023 WL 7986562, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 17, 2023) (Plaintiff “has not proven that the contact info . . ., is inadequate to effectuate discover”) (quotation and citation marks omitted); EEOC v. McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Eating places, 2012 WL 2577795, at *3 (Magazine. D. Md. July 2, 2012) (“social safety numbers are personal and will solely be launched on a displaying of relevancy and true want for the data.”); Tate v. USPS, 2007 WL 521848, at *3 (Magazine. S.D. Fla. Feb. 14, 2007) (plaintiff not entitled to SS# except displaying precise “issue finding a witness”).

Thus, there’s loads of out there authority that non-public damage plaintiffs should present their SS#s throughout discovery.  Nonetheless, Camp Lejeune seems to be the primary time the difficulty has been litigated within the mass tort context.

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