United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is the defendant Mutual of Omaha Insurance
Company's Motion to Seal [ECF No. 67]. For the reasons
given below, the Motion is DENIED.
action concerns an insurance contract dispute between the
plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff alleges three
Counts against the defendant: (1) breach of contract, (2)
unfair claims settlement practices, and (3) breach of the
implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing/bad faith.
See Notice of Removal Ex. A [ECF No. 1-1]
(“Compl”). The plaintiff alleges that he
“was insured under a Long Term Disability Policy issued
by Mutual of Omaha” and had “paid the premiums to
Mutual of Omaha to keep the Policy in full force and
effect.” Compl. ¶ 3. According to the Complaint,
the plaintiff submitted a claim to the defendant for long
term disability benefits under the terms of the insurance
policy and submitted sufficient evidence to support his
claim. Compl. ¶ 5. The defendant denied his claim, and
the plaintiff initiated an administrative appeal, which was
also denied. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 7. The plaintiff alleges
that the defendant's refusal to pay benefits under the
insurance policy was arbitrary and capricious, unsupported in
fact or in law, and a breach of contract. Compl. ¶ 8.
to the Amended Scheduling Order, any dispositive motions in
this case must be filed on or before December 20, 2016. Am.
Scheduling Order [ECF No. 35]. The defendant requests to seal
its present Motion and supporting memorandum, its motion for
summary judgment and supporting memorandum, and all
supporting exhibits. Mot. 2. The defendant argues that these
documents should be sealed because the documents contain
sensitive medical information regarding the plaintiff.
documents may be protected if they contain trade secrets or
other confidential information, “[o]nce documents are
made part of a dispositive motion, such as a summary judgment
motion, they ‘lose their status of being raw fruits of
discovery.'” Rushford v. New Yorker Mag.,
Inc., 846 F.2d 249, 252 (4th Cir. 1988). Accordingly,
the court will not seal a document simply because the parties
have designated that document as “Confidential.”
A motion to seal must be filed.
to Local Rule of Civil Procedure 26.4(b)(2), a motion to seal
must be accompanied by a memorandum of law that contains
“(A) the reasons why sealing is necessary, including
the reasons why alternatives to sealing, such as redaction,
are inadequate; (B) the requested duration of the proposed
seal; and (C) a discussion of the propriety of sealing,
giving due regard to the parameters of the common law and
First Amendment rights of access as interpreted by the
Supreme Court and our Court of Appeals.” LR Civ P
26.4(b)(2). The court will only seal documents when
“exceptional circumstances” are present. LR Civ P
26.4(b)(1). In order to determine whether the materials
should be sealed, the court will weigh the public's First
Amendment and common law rights of access against the
interests of the party seeking continued confidentiality.
See Va. Dep't of St. Police v. Wash. Post, 386
F.3d 567, 575-76 (4th Cir. 2004).
common law right affords presumptive access to all judicial
records and documents. Nixon v. Warner Comms., Inc.,
435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978); Stone v. U. of Md. Med. Sys.
Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988). Materials that
fall within the common law right may be sealed only if
competing interests outweigh the public's right of
access. Generally, “all documents filed for the
Court's consideration in a civil case, even if not the
subject of a judicial decision, are subject to presumptive
access.” Walker Sys. v. Hubbell, Inc., 188
F.R.D. 428, 429 (S.D. W.Va. 1999); see also Brown &
Williamson Tobacco v. FTC, 710 F.2d 1165 (6th Cir.
1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1100 (1983); In re
Coordinated Pretrial Proc. in Petroleum Prods. Antitrust
Litig., 101 F.R.D. 34, 38 (C.D. Cal. 1984). Public
inspection of court documents “is necessary to allow
interested parties to judge the court's work product in
the cases assigned to it.” LR Civ P 26.4(b)(1).
public's First Amendment right of access can only be
overcome when “the denial [of access] is necessitated
by a compelling governmental interest, and is narrowly
tailored to serve that interest.” Globe Newspaper
Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596, 606-07 (1982);
Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1,
15 (1986); Va. Dep't of St. Police, 386 F.3d at
concurring opinion, the Fourth Circuit provided some
procedural guidance to district courts for the sealing of
First, the judicial officer must “state the reasons for
[her] decision to seal supported by specific findings.”
In re Knight Pub. Co., 743 F.2d 231, 235 (4th Cir.
1984). “The judicial officer may explicitly adopt the
facts that the government presents to justify sealing . . .
[b]ut the decision to seal must be made by the judicial
officer.” Balt. Sun Co. v. Goetz, 886 F.2d 60,
65 (4th Cir. 1989). Second, “the judicial officer must
consider alternatives to sealing the documents. This
ordinarily involves disclosing some of the documents or
giving access to a redacted version.” Id. at
66 (citations omitted). Third, a judicial officer must give
notice to the public by docketing the order sealing the
documents. Id. at 65. All of these procedures
“must be followed when a [judicial officer] seals
judicial records or documents.” Stone
v. U. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 179-80 (4th
Cir. 1988) (emphasis added).
Media Gen. Operations, Inc. v. Buchanan, 417 F.3d
424, 435 (4th Cir. ...