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Court Enforces Arbitration Subpoena Against Third-Party Walgreens in Pharmaceutical Drug Overcharge Dispute

The plaintiff in the underlying arbitration (Health Options) served a third-party subpoena on Walgreens to attend a hearing and produce documents concerning the prices it charged for pharmaceuticals to Navitus that Health Options ultimately covered. Walgreens initially declined to produce the requested information and a corporate representative for the hearing, claiming its headquarters was more than 100 miles from the hearing location in Madison, Wisconsin, and that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. The court, however, granted a motion to enforce the arbitration subpoena. First, the court rejected Walgreens’s territoriality argument, accepting Health Options’s proposed method of measuring distance “as the crow flies” and finding that Walgreens’ headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois was less than 100 miles from Madison. Second, the court held that it had personal jurisdiction over Walgreens. The court concluded that Walgreens’s suit-related in-state activities—submitting inflated prices to Navitus that Navitus in turn submitted to Health Options—were sufficiently related to Health Options’s injuries—overpaying on Navitus’s claims. Walgreens’s “purposely-directed communications” to Navitus in Wisconsin were “part of the wrongful conduct” that prompted the lawsuit. Because it is unclear whether the traditional minimum contacts inquiry applies in the third-party discovery context, the court examined the additional criterion some circuits apply: whether a close relationship exists between the non-party’s contacts with the specific discovery request. Even with the heightened scrutiny, the court found the subpoena sought documents related specifically to Walgreens’s contact with Wisconsin. Finally, the court denied Walgreens’s request that Health Options pay its subpoena compliance costs up front. It found Walgreens did not demonstrate the subpoena would be unduly burdensome nor did it provide an estimate of costs, both flaws that precluded an award of costs, let alone upfront costs. Maine Community Health Options v. Walgreen Co., Case No. 18-0009 (USDC W.D. Wis. Dec. 20, 2018).

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About this Author

Thaddeus H. Ewald, Carlton Fields, Litigation lawyer

Thaddeus Ewald's practice focuses on class actions and complex civil litigation in the insurance and financial services industries.

Thaddeus completed a dual-degree program at Georgetown University, graduating in December 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in government and in August 2013 with a master’s degree in American government.

While in law school, Thaddeus served as senior executive editor of The George Washington Law Review. Additionally, he worked as a legal intern with the U.S. Department of Justice in the Fraud Section of the Criminal...