Plaintiffs filed a tread separation case against Cooper Tire. Defendant’s non-responsive answers to the plaintiff’s discovery requests were part of Cooper’s “programmed response” to discovery, as evidenced by five court orders in five different lawsuits against in which both State and Federal courts had held that the company engaged in “wilful disobedience” and “bad faith”. Despite the entry of a Protective Order, Cooper argued that its tire formula and ingredients were trade secrets which were “not subject to disclosure under any circumstances.” The appellate division found the defendant had failed to meet its burden in proving that the list of ingredients used to make the subject tire 11 years ago were, in fact, “trade secrets”, particularly in light of the statements in the California Bridgestone/Firestone litigation to the effect that tire formulation and design is subject to constant evolution and change. Yet, even if the ingredients of the formula for the subject tire were deemed to be a “trade secret”, discovery would be permitted. While acknowledging the suitability of an appropriate protective order, the court vacated the “draconian” order which had been requested by Cooper and entered by the motion judge. Finally, the court rejected the notion that the scope of disclosure should be limited to only those tires with the “same green tire specification” as the tire in question. Mann v. Cooper Tire, 816 N.Y.S.2d 45 (N.Y. App. Div. 1st Dept. 2006).
[For more discussion, see: “What’s New in Product Liability?”]