Trials & Litigation

Federal Judge: Goodyear, Lawyers Must Pay Plaintiff's Legal Fees, Provide Sanctions Order to Others

Finding that a major corporation and two lawyers representing the company blatantly ignored or evaded their discovery obligations and comparing a hard-fought products liability action to the endless Jarndyce and Jarndyce case described in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, a federal judge in Arizona has ordered Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and two of its attorneys to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees.

Chief Judge Roslyn O. Silver also said that Goodyear must provide a copy of her 66-page sanctions order to plaintiffs in all future litigation involving the same tire at issue in the case filed by plaintiff Leroy Haeger over an allegedly defective tire on a motor home. A copy of the Nov. 8 order (PDF) is provided by Safety Research & Strategies, Inc, which describes Goodyear’s discovery conduct in this case and others.

“Goodyear and its attorneys adopted a strategy, implemented in this case to great effect, to resist all legitimate discovery, withhold obviously responsive documents, allow plaintiffs and their experts to operate under erroneous facts, disclose small subsets of documents as late as possible, and otherwise attempt to turn this case based on a motor vehicle accident into an Arizona version of Jarndyce and Jarndyce,” wrote the judge.

Although she said it isn’t possible to measure precisely what the defendants’ discovery conduct cost the plaintiffs, she said that the court has the power to fashion an appropriate remedy in a case such as this one involving “repeated egregious conduct” and has done so.

By ordering Goodyear to file a copy of her sanctions order in all future cases involving its G159 tire, the judge said, other plaintiffs and courts will be alerted “that Goodyear has, in the past, no operated in good faith when litigating such cases.” Her order, she continued, “will also serve as notice of the existence of certain tests Goodyear attempted to conceal in previous cases.”

In addition to the company’s handling of the at-bar case, Silver said she was influenced by “Goodyear’s history of engaging in serious discovery misconduct in every G159 case brought to this Court’s attention” in fashioning her remedy.

In a written statement, Goodyear said that it takes its discovery obligations very seriously, is disappointed with Silver’s ruling and is considering its appellate options, reports Rubber News.

“Litigation is not a game,” writes the judge in the opening paragraph of her opinion. “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.”

Attorney David L. Kurtz represented Haeger.

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