As Sean Kane at Safety Research chronicles, following a nearly decade long discovery battle in which Goodyear and its counsel stonewalled plaintiffs’ counsel in a product liability case, the Chief Justice of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Roslyn O. Silver, issued a comprehensive sanctions order against Goodyear and its attorneys.
In issuing the Order, Judge Silver stated “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 interest. The little voice in every attorney’s conscience that murmurs turn over all material information was ignored.” Because this basic tenet was ignored, Judge Silver’s Order grants more than mere sanctions which are anticipated to be in the range of $3 Million. The order finds that the lawyers engaged in intentional bad faith, misrepresentations and deceit. And that is just the beginning. Judge Silver’s order explains that the plaintiffs may sue for fraud against Goodyear and its counsel. OUCH.
The order is lengthy and well worth the read. For counsel representing plaintiffs, the order is a reminder that representations of corporate defendants and their counsel cannot be accepted at face value. Counsel representing corporate defendants will be reminded of the all too familiar circumstance in which the client is being, shall we say, less than forthcoming with acknowledging the existence of documents that are clearly relevant to the discovery requests. Unfortunately for Goodyear’s counsel, he either turned a blind eye to the “little voice” or freely chose to participate in the corporate conspiracy. I suspect that when the dust settles and the music stops, Goodyear’s counsel will be the only one standing without a chair.