Goodyear Takes Heat After Fraudulent Plaintiff eDiscovery Evasions
Discovery should not and cannot be a game of hide and seek. That is the take away statement in Haeger v. Goodyear Tire and RubberCo., No. CV-05-02046-RHX-ROS (D.Ct.Ariz. Nov. 8, 2012). Tire safety tests were at issue in discovery in the underlying product liability case. Plaintiffs sought relevant documents regarding high speed tests of the tire at issue, and it was later discovered by the court that defendant and its counsel made “deliberate decisions…to delay the production of relevant information, make misleading and false in-court statements and conceal relevant documents.” However, that fact was unknown at the time, and the parties settled the case on the first day of trial.
One year after the case closed, the plaintiff trial lawyer viewed a news story about another Goodyear tire case. The case was about the very heat tests that defendant had claimed did not exist during the settled product liability case. The plaintiff subsequently filed a Motion for Sanctions for “discovery fraud.”
In examining defendant’s prior behavior, the Court noted: “Goodyear’s behavior during discovery is sufficient to support an award of sanctions under the Court’s inherent power. In addition, Mr. Hancock’s [Goodyear’s lead trial counsel] in-court statements qualify as evidence of additional misconduct. Those statements show clear and repeated attempts to mislead Plaintiffs and the Court.”
The Court also admonished that “litigation is not a game. It is the time-honored method of seeking the truth, finding the truth, and doing justice. When a corporation and its counsel refuse to produce directly relevant information an opposing party is entitled to receive, they have abandoned these basic principles in favor of their own interests. The little voice in every attorney’s conscience that murmurs turn over all material information was ignored.”
So what sanctions are appropriate? “The most appropriate sanction is to award Plaintiffs all of the attorneys’ fees and costs they incurred after Goodyear served it supplemental responses to Plaintiff’s First Request.” Although the Order does not delineate the exact amount of fees—one can expect it was significant as the court alludes to the over 16 hours spent litigating discovery issues due to defendant’s evasive actions.
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