Few writs of mandamus are granted in Dallas, so when I see one in the daily case updates I like to check the opinion out. I was glad I did so today! The Dallas Court of Appeals issued an informative opinion today conditionally granting a writ of mandamus to vacate an order that compelled the production of information containing Goodyear’s trade secrets.
Although I generally consider discovery to be a 4-letter word (at least the process of drafting discovery requests and objecting to the other side’s requests), the question of whether certain information is discoverable often provides for interesting legal research and analysis. The question of whether documents should be protected from discovery on the basis of confidentiality or trade secret status is one of those interesting issues. Too often, however, opinions don’t include a detailed analysis of the arguments, objections, and evidence presented in the trial court on discoverability or lack thereof. Today’s opinion in In re the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is an exception to that rule.
Justice Lang-Miers provides us with a detailed analysis of the evidence and arguments presented by both sides. Although it appears that this was not really a close case — Goodyear provided ample evidence to support its contention that the documents contained trade secrets — the opinion gives good examples of what types of evidence should be filed to meet your burden of proof. Those examples can be molded for use in other cases, products cases or otherwise. The opinion also helps future parties on the losing end of a motion to compel to get a second bite at the apple. The court did not determine whether the trade secret information is discoverable. It simply held that Goodyear met its burden to prove the documents contained trade secrets and the plaintiff failed to meet her heightened burden of proving that the information is necessary to a fair adjudication of her claim. So, although the original order will be vacated, the plaintiff can return to the trial court and seek to compel production of the information again. The court’s opinion may be found here.