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Hunton v. American Zurich Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 3, 2018

Bryan Hunton, Plaintiff,
v.
American Zurich Insurance Company, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.

         Following a trial in this insurance bad faith action, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants. (Doc. 344.) Shortly after the jury returned its verdict, the parties negotiated a settlement. (Doc. 356.) In accordance with that settlement and the parties' stipulation, the Court dismissed this action with prejudice on June 1, 2018. (Docs. 362, 365.)

         Four days later, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Unseal Trial Exhibits (Doc. 366), which now is fully briefed (Docs. 367, 368). Plaintiff asks the Court “to unseal the exhibits admitted into evidence at trial (Doc. 347).” (Doc. 366 at 8.) Docket entry 347 is a copy of Plaintiff's trial exhibit list. None of these exhibits, however, were admitted under seal at trial, a fact Plaintiff acknowledges in his motion.[1] (Doc. 366 at 1 (“[W]hen Plaintiff indicated in the parties' Joint Pretrial Statement that he intended to use some of those documents at trial, Zurich did not object or seek to prevent their disclosure in open court. Nor did it move to seal them once they were admitted, or at any point thereafter.”).) The Court cannot unseal trial exhibits that were not sealed in the first place. Instead, the Court construes Plaintiff's motion as challenging Defendant's designation of these exhibits as confidential and seeking relief from the July 7, 2016 Protective Order's restrictions on the disclosure of confidential material produced during discovery. (Doc. 36.) So framed, Plaintiff's motion is granted.

         I. Overview of Protective Order

          On July 5, 2016, the parties jointly moved for the entry of a protective order designed to facilitate discovery and reduce discovery disputes. (Doc. 35.) The Court granted the motion and issued the Protective Order on July 7, 2016. (Doc. 36.) The Protective Order allows either party to designate material sought during discovery as “confidential, ” defined as:

such material or matter used by [the designating party] in, or pertaining to, its business, which matter is not generally known and which the party would normally not reveal to third parties or would cause third parties to maintain in confidence and/or . . . constitute such personal material which matter is not generally known and which the party would normally not real to third parties or would cause third parties to maintain in confidence.

(¶ 2.) The Protective Order also restricts the disclosure of information designated as confidential. (¶¶ 3-5.)

         Pursuant to Paragraph 8 of the Protective Order:

before filing any “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” with the Court, the submitting party must confer with the designating party to determine whether or not the designated material must be filed under seal, and if so, whether the parties can agree on a stipulation to have the “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” filed under seal. Any stipulation must set forth the facts and legal authority that justify filing the “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” under seal. If the parties cannot agree on a stipulation, the submitting party must lodge the “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” under seal and file and serve a notice of lodging summarizing the parties' dispute and setting forth the submitting party's position, accompanied by a certification that the parties have conferred in good faith and were unable to agree about whether the “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” should be filed under seal. Within 14 days after service of the notice, the designating party must file and serve either a notice withdrawing the confidentiality designation or a motion to seal and a supporting memorandum that sets forth the facts and legal authority justifying the filing of the “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” under seal. If the designating party does not file a motion or notice, the Court may enter an order making the “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” part of the public record.

(¶ 8.) Moreover,

[i]n the event that any “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” is used in any court proceeding in connection with this litigation in accordance with the terms of this Order, it will not lose its “CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” status through the use, and the parties will take all steps reasonably required to protect its confidentiality during the use.

(¶ 11.)

         The Protective Order does not require a party to challenge the propriety of a confidentiality designation at the time it is made, nor does failure to do so “preclude a subsequent challenge during the pendency of this litigation.” (¶ 9.) If a dispute over the propriety of a confidentiality designation arises, “[t]he burden of proving ...


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