Highmark Inc. has filed a motion asking the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County to compel UPMC to return confidential documents that it inadvertently received during a hearing in November.
In a statement, the Pittsburgh insurer said UPMC "failed to follow well-established protocols for attempting to gain access to the subject documents, instead engineering 'back-door' access to preclude Highmark from protecting its confidential and trade secret documents."
The documents in question were exhibits in a suit filed by Highmark against the West Penn Allegheny Health System to prevent WPAHS from soliciting other affiliation partners.
Although not party to the suit, UPMC requested copies of publicly available exhibits during the trial. Among those UPMC received were at least 138 additional documents that were either supposed to be under seal or contained what Highmark described as "highly sensitive, confidential, proprietary and trade secret Highmark documents."
UPMC attorneys say they alerted the court when they discovered the error in early December, although by then the documents had been circulated among UPMC executives and unnamed outside parties.
During an informal proceeding on Dec. 13, Court of Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward asked UPMC attorneys to return the documents but they refused, saying the documents were legally obtained.
The following day, according to the suit, Highmark attorneys from Reed Smith and UPMC attorneys met with the judge. It was during those talks that Highmark learned that more documents were involved and "the problem was greater than UPMC had disclosed to the court," the Highmark filing states.
In Wednesday's press release, Highmark attorney Jerry S. McDevitt of K&L Gates said he was "personally and professionally appalled to read that UPMC has obtained and used these documents, and also at the arrogance of UPMC when it previously appeared before the court on this matter."
UPMC spokesman Paul Wood said Wednesday that at the Dec. 14 in-chambers conference both sides agreed that UPMC would "return clean copies of the 16 exhibits to the Court and to afford additional protection to those documents."
"Now, more than a month after that agreement, Highmark and new counsel have not only reneged on that agreement, but have launched a baseless and hyperbolic attack on UPMC's receipt and retention of the remaining documents."
Steve Twedt: email@example.com or 412-263-1963.