JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Certain documents the Ford Motor Co. produced during discovery in a wrongful-death settlement will not be disclosed to parties in similar cases, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 decision. The ruling stemmed from a 2006 settlement involving the death of Justin Hachinsky, who was killed in a rollover accident involving a 2002 Ford Explorer.
Hachinsky’s parents filed a motion in January seeking to retain their documents and to remove the nonsharing protective orders for each category of documents. They said it would expedite discovery in other cases and that Ford had a history of discovery abuse.
The circuit court granted the motion, but the Supreme Court granted Ford a preliminary writ to prevent enforcement. On Tuesday, the high court made the writ permanent, ruling that the circuit court abused its discretion in lifting the nonsharing order.
Judge William Ray Price Jr. wrote for the majority, “The discovery process is primarily designed to facilitate an orderly and efficient resolution of individual lawsuits, not to provide a national database. But our courts need not idly stand by if evidence of fraud or abuse is brought forward concerning documents subject to a protective order.”
Judge Richard B. Teitelman disagreed. “The only effect of lifting the nonsharing order is that the documents will be available in other cases while still being protected from disclosure to competitors,” Teitelman wrote in the minority opinion. “These efficiency concerns provide a reasonable basis for the circuit court’s decision to lift the nonsharing order.”