A Federal judge in Kansas has refused a request by an insurer (UNUM) to permit the filing of what it classifies as “confidential” information under seal. The Judge correctly noted that the decision whether to seal judicial records is a matter left to the sound discretion of the district court. The Court noted that “the public has a common-law right to judicial records”, a right the Court noted derived from the public’s interest in the fairness and honesty of its court, and in understanding disputes that are resolved in a public forum. But, the Court also noted that “the parties’ privacy interest in some information may overcome the public’s right.”
In deciding whether to seal or not, the Court is required to balance the public’s right against the party’s interest in sealing, but noted that documents should be sealed “only on the basis of articulable facts known to the Court, not on the basis of unsupported hypothesis or conjecture.”
The documents at issue which UNUM wanted sealed related to the financial information of a hired medical reviewer physician. The Court was unpersuaded that such information was entitled to protection and should not be sealed, particularly given that his impartiality was at issue. A secondary basis, raised by UNUM, was that the amount paid by them to the doctor was a business secret, was readily dismissed by the Court.
Thus, the Court refused to permit the filing of documents reflecting the doctor’s earnings under seal.
Meyer v. UNUM Life Ins. Co.