The strength of any particular Florida personal injury claim depends largely on the evidence available to back it up. That includes not only evidence developed by the plaintiff, but also that obtained from the person or entity being sued. Discovery is the process by which parties to a lawsuit can request evidence – documents, information, admissions – from each other, and is intended to help litigants clarify the issues and claims in a lawsuit. While the scope of evidence that may be requested in discovery is broad, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains in Pike v. Trinity Industries that it is not absolute.
Mr. Pike sued Trinity Industries and a related company in state court in Florida, claiming that he was impaled by a guardrail system that was designed, manufactured and sold by the companies during an auto accident. He later voluntarily dismissed the action and re-filed in federal court, alleging claims for negligence and strict liability related to the same accident.
While discovery was ongoing, Pike served a request on the companies for all documents produced by them in separate litigation in Virginia related to a patent dispute between Trinity Industries and a company called SPIG Industry. He claimed that the information was necessary to determine whether the guardrail system had been approved for use and sale at the time of his accident. Trinity Industries sought to avoid producing the documents, arguing that the Virginia court had issued a protective order making the documents confidential and barring the parties in that case from divulging them to others.
The Middle District agreed, sort of. “The scope of discovery is broad in order to provide parties with information essential to the proper litigation of all relevant facts, to eliminate surprise and to promote settlement,” the court explained. As such “[t]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure strongly favor full discovery whenever possible.” Nevertheless, the court further instructed that discovery should be limited to that information and evidence which is actually relevant in a given case.
Here, the court found that Pike’s request for production of documents was overly broad. “Not only does Plaintiff appear to request every litigation document in the Virginia case…but also, while the issues litigated in the Virginia case may have some relevance here, the Virginia case, as a whole, is clearly not directly relevant.” The court observed that the other case concerned a patent dispute, while the present matter was one related to strict liability and negligence.
The court also held that the information requested seemed to be protected by the Virginia court’s order. While some of this evidence may nevertheless be discoverable, the court said Pike will have to go through the Virginia court to get it.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Florida, contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Boca Raton. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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