A recent Texas appellate case concerns a cement truck crash that resulted in the driver’s death. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the crash was due to a failure of the front tire on the truck. They sued the tire manufacturer as well as the company that owned the cement truck.
During discovery, they asked the manufacturer to produce certain tire building machines that were used to put the liner and steel belts into the tires. The manufacturer objected and argued, among other things, that it asked for data that was confidential or a trade secret.
The plaintiffs moved to compel production of the tire building machines in order to compel discovery filed by Goodyear. The manufacturer responded with its manager’s declaration that the tires in question had stopped being produced in 2010 and that none of the tires now being produced had the same specs as the subject tire.
The tire manufacturer claimed that people trying to get access to the machines that made tires would need to see details of tire building that weren’t related to the subject tire. Visitors had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, and even employees were only provided with confidential information on a need to know basis.
The trial judge granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel the evidence. The resulting order required the manufacturer to allow the plaintiff’s expert, one attorney, and a videographer access to the tire machines while they were being operated. It also allowed visual observation and videotaping by the videographer. The manufacturer moved for reconsideration and then appealed when the motion was denied.
On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that they were making a request for production, while the manufacturer argued it was a request to enter property. These two types of requests have different uses and different standards. Under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 196.1(a), a request for production permits inspecting, sampling, photographing, and copying documents or tangible things that are relevant. A request for entry onto property permits a party to get onto a piece of property to look at the property and objects or operations on the property.
In this case, since the plaintiffs wanted to come onto the property to observe and videotape what was happening, it was a request for entry onto property and governed by Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 196.7. Someone asking to enter property needs to show more than just relevance to go onto the property. A trial court is supposed to balance the need of the party trying to get onto the property against the burden or danger created by the inspection.
The court held that what was ordered was irrelevant because looking at the machines wouldn’t reflect how the subject tire was built on the machines. Disrupting operations would result from entering onto the property.
The appellate court explained that the plaintiffs were asking to get onto the property to create a recording that didn’t document the process that was used to make the tire at issue, but it was a recording of totally unrelated tires. The order sought to create rather than discover evidence and went beyond the proper scope of discovery. Therefore, the manufacturer’s petition for a writ of mandamus was conditionally granted.
Numerous trucks pass through San Antonio. Not all attorneys are equipped to handle a truck accident or product liability lawsuit. If a loved one dies as a result of a defective product or negligence, the San Antonio wrongful death attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.
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