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$2.7 Million in Sanctions Against Attorneys and Client Upheld For Discovery Abuses

| Jul 24, 2015 | Automobile Defects

At The Brandi Law Firm, we represent a number of people wrongfully injured by defective products, unsafe vehicles, or dangerous roads.  In virtually every case, pretrial discovery allows the parties an opportunity to obtain documents and data from each other, such as design plans, complaints, other similar incidents, patents, test results, proposed changes, internal memos, et. al.  Essential to the system working is reliance on the honesty of the producing party.  Courts will impose sanctions when a party does not comply, ranging from monetary sanctions to issue sanctions, e.g .a finding that a defendant was at fault or entering a default judgment.

In Haeger vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, (See 2015 DJDAR 8281), the Ninth Circuit upheld the United States Federal Court trial judge sanctions of $2.7 million for misconduct by defense attorneys and Goodyear for not turning over essential documents that were properly requested during discovery.

Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. wrote:

“It is clear the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Hancock, Musnuff, and Goodyear acted in bad faith in this litigation.  The Sanctionees, throughout numerous discovery dispute filings and hearings, convinced the district court that Goodyear had produced all test data relevant to the Haegers’ claims.  The district court noted that “[i]n fact, at various points the Court became exasperated with Plaintiffs’ apparently unsubstantiated claims that additional information must exist.”

It was not until the sanctions proceedings that the district court realized that the Sanctionees had

“adopted a plan of making discovery as difficult as possible, providing only those documents they wished to provide, timing the production of the small subset of documents they were willing to turn over such that it was inordinately difficult for Plaintiffs to manage their case, and making false statements to the Court in an attempt to hide their behavior.”

This case involved a crash of a motor home and allegations the Goodyear G159 tire was defective. After asking in discovery for various test data, being repeatedly assured all of it was produced, the Plaintiffs settled their case at the commencement of trial. Thereafter the Plaintiff’s lawyer learned of  tests involving the G159 tire that he felt were covered by his discovery requests but not provided and brought this matter to the Court ‘s attention, arguing that a fraud had been committed.

Even though the case had been settled, the Court looked into the matter, held hearings, and “then Chief United States District Judge Roslyn O. Silver, of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, handed down a sixty-six-page Order imposing sanctions ultimately calculated in the sum of $548,240 against attorney Graeme Hancock (Hancock), and $2,192,961 jointly against attorney Basil J. Musnuff (Musnuff) and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (Goodyear) (collectively the Sanctionees).  In the Order, which included forty-nine pages  of  findings of fact and seventeen pages of legal analysis, Judge Silver found that “there is clear and convincing evidence that sanctions are required to be imposed against Hancock, Musnuff, and Goodyear.  The Court is aware of the unfortunate professional consequences that may flow from this Order. Those consequences, however, are a direct result of repeated, deliberate decisions by Hancock, Musnuff, and Goodyear to delay the production of relevant information, make misleading and false in-court statements, and conceal relevant documents. Hancock, Musnuff, and Goodyear will surely be disappointed, but they cannot be surprised.”

In a footnote the Court of Appeal noted: “The district court began its order with the following powerful declaration, which warrants the attention of all members of the bar: “1 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.”

Some attorneys believe this is a rare decision, because the misconduct is so rare while others believe it is simply rarely discovered.

At The Brandi Law Firm, we have helped people throughout the country who have been harmed because of a defective drug or medical device such as Actos (Takata), Fosamax (Merck), DePuy (Johnson & Johnson), Lipitor (Pfizer), Yaz (Bayer) and Vaginal Mesh (Johnson & Johnson).  Instead of treating all victims of defective drugs and medical devices the same we take a different, more personalized approach with a team of experienced defective drug attorneys and paralegals working for every client.  Our goal is to provide you with information about your legal options and to help you pursue compensation and holding these drug companies responsible for their dangerous actions.

We have successfully represented many people injured from defective autos such as Toyotas, Fords, Chryslers, Hondas, GM, and their component parts.  Additionally, we have successfully represented people injured by defective helmets, bicycles, motorcycles, fuel pumps, brakes, car seats, seat belts, air bags, table saws, pumps, industrial machinery used in the workplace, barbeques, heating systems, and numerous other household and industrial products.

Often times, people involved in accidents do not examine the issues of defective product design, the risks inherent in the design, feasible alternatives, and appropriate warnings.  In a car accident, we examine whether the car was truly crashworthy – does it contain the appropriate crash protection. In accidents where someone strikes a guardrail, people often do not consider the guardrail may be unsafe, installed improperly, or whether there is a contributing factor in the roadway design leading to a dangerous condition.  We have represented a number of people seriously injured in these types of accidents involving dangerous conditions of roads and crashworthy vehicles.

If you or a loved one has been wrongfully injured or if you have lost a loved one in your family, our attorneys at The Brandi Law Firm are available to consult with you.  Please contact our office at 800-481-1615 or email us.