Buy This Entire Record For
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Elite Health Centers, Inc.
United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
August 26, 2019
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
ELITE HEALTH CENTERS, INC., ELITE CHIROPRACTIC, P.C., ELITE REHABILITATION, INC., MIDWEST MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, INC., PURE REHABILITATION, INC., DEREK L. BITTNER, D.C., P.C., MARK A. RADOM, DEREK LAWRENCE BITTNER, D.C., RYAN MATTHEW LUKOWSKI, D.C., MICHAEL P. DRAPLIN, D.C., NOEL H. UPFALL, D.O., MARK J. JUSKA, M.D., SUPERIOR DIAGNOSTICS, INC., CHINTAN DESAI, M.D., MICHAEL J. PALEY, M.D., DEARBORN CENTER FOR PHYSICAL THERAPY, L.L.C., MICHIGAN CENTER FOR PHYSICAL THERAPY, INC., and JAYSON ROSETT, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING ELITE DEFENDANTS'
OBJECTIONS TO THE DENIAL OF A LETTER REQUEST TO FILE A MOTION
TO DISQUALIFY STATE FARM'S COUNSEL (DOC. 541)
COHN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an insurance fraud case. Before the Court is the Elite
Defendants' Objection to the Magistrate Judge's
Opinion and Order Denying Elite Defendants and Dr. Chintan
Desai's Letter Requests for Leave to File Motion to
Disqualify State Farm's Counsel and Exclude Unethically
Obtained Evidence. (Doc. 541). The issue is whether the
magistrate judge's decision that the Elite Defendants
should not be permitted to file a motion to exclude evidence
and disqualify Miller Canfield and Katten Muchin Rosenman as
State Farm counsel is clearly erroneous or contrary to the
law? The answer is no.
of 2019, the Elite Defendants sought leave to move to
disqualify Miller Canfield and Katten as counsel for State
Farm based on “Miller Canfield's unethical and
improper use or disclosure of secrets or client confidences
of its client Joshua Katke, ” a non-party (1) who
helped form and open MRI centers Horizon and Superior (which
billed for MRIs on many patients at issue), and co-owns with
defendant Chintan Desai another MRI Center, M1 Imaging (which
billed for MRIs on a small number of patients at issue); and
(2) on whom State Farm served subpoenas for documents and a
deposition. The Elite Defendants alleged that “[i]t is
all but certain that Miller Canfield learned information
about Defendants by virtue of its attorney-client
relationship with Katke, and according to Katke, then
disclosed that information to Katten, which it is using to
prosecute its case against Defendants.” Doc. 488
(citing MRPC 1.6 (prohibiting lawyers from revealing
confidence of client or using it for the advantage of the
lawyer or a third person)). Dr. Chintan Desai filed a similar
letter request. (Doc. 501).
Farm objected to the letter requests and attached a sworn
declaration from Katten attorney Kathy P. Josephson stating
that Miller Canfield did not reveal to Katten or State Farm
information about or arising out of Miller Canfield's
representation of Katke, including any confidential
information. Miller Canfield filed the sworn declaration of
Thomas W. Cranmer, further confirming “Miller Canfield
has not used or revealed to Katten or State Farm any
confidential information relating to Miller Canfield's
representation of Mr. Katke (or any other client).”
(Doc. 492.) State Farm also argued that the Elite Defendants
lack standing to move to disqualify. (Doc. 490).
magistrate judge denied the Elite Defendants' and
Desai's requests to move to disqualify SFM's counsel
and exclude evidence obtained by Miller Canfield, concluding
that they “lack standing to file a motion to disqualify
Miller Canfield and Katten . . . because they do not have,
and have never had, an attorney client relationship with
Miller Canfield or Katten.” (Doc. 518 at 3).
magistrate judge also rejected the Elite Defendants' and
Desai's efforts to exclude evidence. The magistrate judge
explained that these efforts were premised on an allegation
of improper disclosure of client confidences of client Katke
by Miller Canfield. The magistrate judge, however, found that
the defendants failed to provide any support for their
“speculat[ion]” that Miller Canfield disclosed
client confidences; that “State Farm has likely had
multiple sources, including some publicly available ones from
which it was able to piece together the history of
Katke's corporate dealings, without access to Miller
Canfield's files”; and that the “very loose
inferences” offered by the Elite Defendants “will
not suffice to convince the Court that the firm's ethical
integrity has been breached.” Id. at 9-10. The
magistrate judge also found that even if there had been a
breach of confidence between Miller Canfield and Katke,
“the Elite Defendants and Desai [again] lack standing
to assert that claim” for the purposes of moving to
exclude evidence. Id. at 10-12.
decision and order of a non-dispositive motion by a
magistrate judge will be upheld unless it is clearly
erroneous or contrary to law. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); Massey v. City of
Ferndale, 7 F.3d 506, 509 (6th Cir. 1993). A district
judge shall consider such objections and may modify or set
aside any portion of the magistrate judge's order found
to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(a). “The ‘clearly erroneous' standard
applies only to the magistrate judge's factual findings;
legal conclusions are reviewed under the plenary
‘contrary to law' standard.... “ Haworth,
Inc. v. Herman Miller, Inc., 162 F.R.D. 289, 291 (W.D.
Mich. 1995) (citing Gandee v. Glaser, 785 F.Supp.
684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992)). Clear error has occurred when the
reviewing court “is left with the definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been committed.”
United States v. Caseer, 399 F.3d 828, 840 (6th Cir.
2005) (citations omitted). “An order is contrary to law
when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case
law, or rules of procedure.” Ford Motor Co. v.
United States, 2009 WL 2922875, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Sept.
Court has reviewed the magistrate judge's order and
papers relating to the Elite Defendants' objections.
Nothing in the magistrate judge's ruling is clearly
erroneous or contrary to law. No further explanation is
the magistrate judge's order denying the Elite
Defendants' request to file a motion to disqualify is