(a) Discovery rule: Time limits.
(1) Limited prehearing discovery may be permitted by the contractor hearing officer(s) upon request of a party, provided the request is timely and the hearing officer(s) makes a preliminary finding of its jurisdiction over the matters at issue in accordance with § 405.1814(a) of this subpart.
(2) A prehearing discovery request is timely if the request by a party is served no later than 120 days before the initially scheduled starting date of the contractor hearing, unless the contractor hearing officer(s) extends the time for requesting discovery.
(3) In the absence of a specific schedule for responses set by the contractor hearing officer(s), responses to interrogatories and requests for production of documents are due according to the schedule agreed upon by the party serving discovery and the party to which the discovery is directed. Responses by a party to interrogatories or requests for production of documents must be served no later than 45 days before the initially scheduled start of the contractor hearing, unless the contractor hearing officer(s) orders otherwise. Responses by a nonparty to requests for production of documents must be served no later than 75 days after the date the requests were served on the nonparty, unless the party requesting the documents and the nonparty to which the requests are directed agree on a different time for responding, or unless the contractor hearing officer(s) extends the time for responding.
(4) Before ruling on a request to extend the time for requesting discovery or for responding to discovery, the hearing officer(s) must give the other parties to the appeal and any nonparty subject to a discovery request a reasonable period to respond to the extension request.
(5) If the extension request is granted, the hearing officer(s) sets a new deadline and has the discretion to reschedule the hearing date.
(b) Discovery criteria -
(1) General rule. The contractor hearing officer(s) may permit discovery of a matter that is relevant to the specific subject matter of the contractor hearing, provided the matter is not privileged or otherwise protected from disclosure and the discovery request is not unreasonable, unduly burdensome or expensive, or otherwise inappropriate. In determining whether to permit discovery, and in fixing the scope and limits of any discovery, the hearing officer(s) uses the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules 401 and 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence for guidance.
(2) Limitations on discovery. Any discovery before the contractor hearing officer(s) is limited as follows:
(i) A party may request of another party, or of a nonparty other than CMS, HHS or any Federal agency, the reasonable production of documents for inspection and copying.
(ii) A party may request another party to respond to a reasonable number of written interrogatories.
(iii) A party may not request admissions, take oral or written depositions, or take any other form of discovery not permitted under this section.
(c) Discovery procedures. Rights of nonparties: Motions to compel or for protective order.
(1) A party may request discovery of another party to the proceedings before the contractor hearing officer(s) or of a nonparty other than CMS, HHS or other Federal agency. Any discovery request filed with the contractor hearing officer(s) must be sent promptly to the party or nonparty from which the discovery is requested, and to any other party to the contractor hearing (as described in § 405.1815 of this subpart).
(2) If a discovery request is made of a nonparty to the contractor hearing, the nonparty has the rights any party has in responding to a discovery request. The rights of the nonparty include, but are not limited to, the right to select and use any attorney or other representative, and to submit discovery responses, objections, or motions to the hearing officer(s).
(3) Each party and nonparty is required to make a good faith effort to resolve or narrow any discovery dispute, regardless of whether the dispute is with another party or a nonparty.
(i) A party may submit to the contractor hearing officer(s) a motion to compel discovery that is permitted under this section, and a motion for a protective order regarding any discovery request may be submitted to the hearing officer(s) by a party or nonparty.
(ii) Any motion to compel or for protective order must include a self-sworn declaration describing the movant's efforts to resolve or narrow the discovery dispute. A self-sworn declaration describing efforts to resolve or narrow a discovery dispute also must be included with any response to a motion to compel or for a protective order.
(iii) The hearing officer(s) must -
(A) Decide the motion in accordance with this section and any prior discovery ruling; and
(B) Issue and send to each party and any affected nonparty a discovery ruling that grants or denies the motion to compel or for protective order in whole or in part; if applicable the discovery ruling must specifically identify any part of the disputed discovery request upheld and any part rejected, and impose any limits on discovery the hearing officer(s) finds necessary and appropriate. Nothing in this section authorizes the contractor hearing officer to compel any action from the Secretary or CMS.
(d) Reviewability of discovery or disclosure rulings -
(1) General rule. A discovery ruling issued in accordance with paragraph (c)(3) of this section, or a disclosure ruling (such as one issued at a hearing), is not subject to immediate review by a CMS official (as described in § 405.1834(b)(3) of this subpart). A discovery ruling may be examined solely during the course of CMS review under § 405.1834 of this subpart of a jurisdictional dismissal decision (as described in § 405.1814(c)(2) of this subpart) or a hearing decision (as described in § 405.1831 of this subpart) by the contractor hearing officer(s).
(2) Exception. To the extent a ruling authorizes discovery or disclosure of a matter for which an objection based on privilege or other protection from disclosure such as case preparation, confidentiality, or undue burden, was made before the contractor hearing officer(s), that portion of the discovery or disclosure ruling may immediately be reviewed by a CMS reviewing official in accordance with § 405.1834(b)(3).
(i) Upon notice to the contractor hearing officer that the provider intends to seek immediate review of a ruling, or that the contractor or other affected nonparty intends to suggest that the Administrator through the CMS reviewing official, take own motion review of the ruling, the contractor hearing officer stays all proceedings affected by the ruling.
(ii) The contractor hearing officer must determine, under the circumstances of a given case, the length of any stay, but in no event may the stay be less than 15 days.
(iii) If the Administrator through the CMS reviewing official -
(A) Grants a request for review, or takes own motion review, of a ruling, the ruling is stayed until such time as the CMS reviewing official issues a written decision that affirms, reverses, modifies, or remands the contractor hearing officer's ruling.
(B) Does not grant review or take own motion review within the time allotted for the stay, the stay is lifted and the ruling is not subject to immediate review.
(e) Prehearing conference. The contractor hearing officer(s) has discretion to schedule a prehearing conference. A prehearing conference may be conducted in person or telephonically, at the discretion of the contractor hearing officer(s). When a panel of contractor hearing officers is designated, the panel may appoint one or more hearing officers to act for the panel for any prehearing conference or any matter addressed at the conference.