MIAMI—Florida's Third Circuit Court of Appeals has returned a decision to a lower court for revision involving a suit filed against the Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. A lower court had ordered Cooper to produce documents that Cooper claims contain trade secrets.
The estate of the Guzman family sued Cooper in 2010, alleging that the Cooper tires on the Guzmans' Ford Explorer were defectively designed and manufactured, causing the family's fatal accident.
The Guzmans' personal representative submitted a number of discovery requests, according to the appeals court ruling issued May 8. However, Cooper objected to some of these requests, saying they were both irrelevant to the case and protected by trade secret privilege.
The Guzmans' representative filed a motion to compel Cooper to produce the documents. The trial court ordered Cooper to produce them, though it also granted Cooper's motion for entry of a protective order of confidentiality.
Cooper petitioned the appeals court to reverse the lower court's order. The tire maker argued that the trial court failed to make specific findings on the necessity of producing the documents. Also, if the trial court determined it was necessary to produce the documents, it was obligated to set forth its findings for the appeals court to review, according to Cooper.
The court both failed its basic duty under the law and caused Cooper irreparable injury, Cooper said.
Writing for the court, Judge Richard J. Suarez granted Cooper's motion.
Since the trial court granted Cooper's motion for confidentiality, it apparently acknowledged that some of the documents might contain trade secrets, according to Suarez.
"That being so, the trial court failed to set forth in its order the required findings as to why the production of such documents was reasonably necessary," he wrote.
The appeals court ordered the trial court to determine which of Cooper's documents contain trade secrets, and to make a determination of reasonable necessity regarding the documents that do contain trade secrets.
Cooper declined comment on the order. Stephen G. Lowry, an attorney representing the Guzmans, could not be reached for comment.