The Rhode Island Superior Court has permitted three plaintiffs in consolidated products liability cases to discover all deposition and trial testimony by a product manufacturer’s employees in other cases despite a Texas federal court protective order that purportedly makes such testimony undiscoverable.
Plaintiffs allege that defendant made a defective tire, that the tire was on a passenger car in which they were traveling, that the tire failed causing the car to roll over and that they were injured. They served a document request seeking the production of all deposition and trial testimony of defendants’ employees in prior cases involving allegedly defective products. Defendant argued that a Protective Order of Confidentiality issued by a federal distric court in Texas prevented them from producing the transcripts and that the Rhode Island Superior Court was bound by this order under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution and by principles of comity.
The Rhode Island court said that the Full Faith and Credit Clause is based on res judicata. The court said that since plaintiffs were not parties in the Texas case in which the protective order entered res judicata would not apply, so the Full Faith and Credit Clause did not apply.
With respect to comity, the court acknowledged that as a general matter, it should give deference to a protective order issued by a federal court. However, under Rhode Island law, whether to do was a discretionary decision by the trial court guided by considerations of public policy and the interests of Rhode Island citizens.
Finally, defendant argued that a different federal court protective order barred disclosure of the trial transcript in that case. However, the court found that that protective order was intended to expire at the conclusion of that case. Accordingly, the court ordered defendant to produce all the transcripts requested.
O’Donnell v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., C.A. PC-10-6221, C.A. PC-10-7471, C.A. PC-11-4648, 2015 WL 6738179 (R.I.Super. Oct. 27, 2015)
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