Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Matthew Marroquin died after being partially ejected from a Ford Expedition that rolled over after being struck at an intersection. His family filed a product liability suit against Ford and requested numerous documents from Volvo, a wholly owned but distinct Ford subsidiary that was not a party in the underlying case. To facilitate discovery while maintaining the confidentiality of Volvo’s documents, the parties agreed to a protective order. The protective order stipulated the parties would keep confidential those Volvo documents containing trade secrets and other confidential research, development and commercial information. The agreed protective order stated that any document Ford designated as confidential would be treated as such and not disclosed or disseminated, and it also prescribed a procedure for the Marroquins to contest any such designation. In addition, the stipulated agreement permitted the Marroquins to use the documents in litigation and even authorized sharing the documents with other plaintiffs suing Ford in similar suits, provided those plaintiffs committed to the same protective order. The protective order, however, excluded certain documents from its scope, including documents that have been submitted to any government entity without request for confidential treatment. The order also specified that inadvertent or unintentional production of documents or information containing information which should have been designated confidential would not be deemed a waiver of confidentiality. After both parties signed and filed the order with the court, Ford designated as confidential and produced under seal numerous Volvo documents, including several reports and videos related to rollover testing of the Volvo XC-90 sport-utility vehicle. Meanwhile, a plaintiff in Florida state court was litigating similar product liability claims against Ford, and Ford submitted under seal the same documents under a similar protective order. The clerk of the Florida court, however, set off a chain of events by inadvertently allowing an unknown number of persons, including interest groups and the media, to access the documents. Following these events, the Marroquins likewise argued that the Volvo rollover documents could not be deemed confidential given their public availability and widespread nationwide disclosure through the Florida court clerk’s office, the NHTSA website, and the attendant media coverage discussing the documents. With this level of public disclosure, the Marroquins asserted that Ford could not plausibly assert trade secrecy. The trial court granted the Marroquins’ motion and deemed the documents nonconfidential. HOLDING:The court conditionally granted the petition for a writ of mandamus. The privilege to maintain a document’s confidentiality belongs to the document owner, not to the trial court, the Texas Supreme Court stated. Mistaken document production by a court employee in violation of a court-signed protective order cannot constitute a party’s voluntary waiver of confidentiality, the court stated. The Florida-related disclosures did not waived the confidential status of the rollover documents and did not authorize the Marroquins (or their counsel) to disclose covered confidential information, trade secret or not, the court held. The Texas trial court erred in declaring that the disputed documents fell outside the agreed protective order, an error for which there is no adequate appellate remedy, the court stated. OPINION:Per curiam.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.