Question of sealed documents arises in Robert Back case - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Question of sealed documents arises in Robert Back case

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 UPDATE: Judge John Kutzman has ruled in favor of Robert Back, after a motion was made to file expert disclosure under seal. 

As a result, certain medical documents related to Robert Back's case against Benefis Health System will remain unavailable to the media and public. 

This recent development, of course, stems from the 2014 head injury Back received while playing high school football for Belt High School, which resulted in permanent damage. To read our previous coverage, click here.


Benefis Health System has responded to Robert Back's attorneys' motion to file expert disclosure under seal. In other words, Robert Back's attorneys requested in the midst of the discovery period to keep certain medical records sealed from the public; Benefis disagrees. 

In mid-October Benefis stated in court documents that they had not seen the Plaintiff's disclosure until October 10th, resulting in not enough of an opportunity to "review Plaintiffs' Expert Disclosure prior to the filing of the motion to evaluate whether Benefis agreed" that the information would be appropriate to seal. Benefis also states that it is interpreting the Plaintiffs' motion as a request to not only seal their expert disclosure, but also seal Benefis' expert disclosure.

Robert Back's party had filed the motion due to what they call "sensitive" healthcare information about Robert. 

But after reviewing that motion, Benefis states they do not find any information that would warrant sealing, in part because the Plaintiffs already detailed Robert's health status in the original complaint, which is of public record. Benefis says that information is also discussed in both parties' expert witness disclosures. In turn, court documents state Benefis does not see "anything unusual" in the disclosure that would warrant sealing. 

Benefis' lawyers also cite the Montana Constitution, which states, "No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure." "It is clear... that the public and the press have the right under state law to attend and observe with limited exception the hearings of the courts of the this state." State ex rel. Great Falls Tribune Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, Cascade Cty.

According to administrative assistants, Judge John Kutzman has not yet made a decision as to whether the documents should be sealed. 

In the meantime, Benefis has filed an unopposed motion to extend the deadline to respond to the Plaintiffs' motion for sanctions; the new deadline, if approved, will be January 5th, 2018. 

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