Amid a host of recalls for faulty airbags used by nearly a dozen auto manufacturers, the Alabama Supreme Court recently weighed another product liability case involving allegedly defective airbags.
In Robert Bosch LLC v. Smith et al., justices were asked whether a trial court erred in requiring defendant air bag manufacturer to submit a series of internal records deemed trade secrets as part of discovery.
Defendant appealed that decision, arguing it should not be forced to turn over information that could be damaging to the company. Plaintiff argued trial court did not err in its ruling and the need to prevent disclosure does not outweigh the benefit of disclosing what should be considered relevant evidence.
In the end, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that while both sides presented compelling and well-supported arguments, the trial court did err insofar as it failed to enter a protective order that provided sufficient protection for the requested information, which no one has disputed was a trade secret. The court indicated plaintiff was likely entitled to some of the information, but directed the trial court to strike the previous order and enter a new one that is more comprehensive and restrictive, in order to shield sensitive business information.
Our Montgomery product liability lawyers recognize this case shows just how quickly a motor vehicle injury or wrongful death lawsuit can take a complicated turn. Accident victims need to ensure their case is only entrusted to a legal firm with extensive experience and proven success.
Here, the case stemmed from a fatal crash in which a woman and her husband were passengers in a vehicle driven by her stepson. The trio were waiting in the left turn lane for vehicles to pass when they were struck from behind by another car. The impact pushed the vehicle into the intersection, where it was struck head-on by oncoming traffic. The husband, in the front passenger seat, suffered severe injuries and died several days later.
A review of evidence indicated the front passenger airbag – the one that would have protected decedent – did not deploy upon impact in either the rear crash or head-on collision. Further, the decedent’s seat belt, which is supposed to lock immediately after a crash, failed to activate.
Plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against a number of defendants – this one included. Bosch was the manufacturer/designer of the air bag electronic control unit.
In the course of conducting deposition, plaintiffs requested a great deal of information from defendant, including information relative to algorithms used to deploy the restraint systems in the car. Defendant countered those algorithms were trade secrets, and it should not be forced to produce them. The trial court disagreed.
With the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling, defendant may still have to produce the information, though it’s likely there will be a series of protections to ensure that information is protected and doesn’t become public.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Robert Bosch LLC v. Smith et al., Dec. 12, 2014, Alabama Supreme Court
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Bilesky v. Shopko – Spoliation of Evidence Met With Sanctions, Dec. 12, 2014, Montgomery Personal Injury Lawyer Blog