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Grimes v. Young Life, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson Division

January 23, 2017

Phillip Wade GRIMES, Personal Representative of the Estate of O.G., Plaintiff,
v.
YOUNG LIFE, INC.; Inner Quest, Inc.; and Adventure Experiences, Inc., Defendants.

          Brian T. Smith, Law Offices of Brian T. Smith, Christina M. Bradford, U.S. District Court, Greenville, SC, Lee Delton Gunn, IV, Pro Hac Vice, Ryan A. Lopez, Pro Hac Vice, Gunn Law Group PA, Tampa, FL, for Plaintiff.

          Robert Charles Rogers, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, W. Howard Boyd, Jr., Gallivan White and Boyd, Greenville, SC, for Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HENRY M. HERLONG, JR., SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Young Life, Inc.'s ("Young Life") motion to seal an excerpt from the Young Life Challenge Course Manual (the "Manual Excerpt") and a contract between Young Life and Inner Quest, Inc. ("Inner Quest") for the installation of a three-person giant swing (the "Contract"), pursuant to Local Civil Rule 5.03 of the District of South Carolina. Young Life seeks to file the Manual Excerpt and Contract under seal as an exhibit to its motion for summary judgment as to Inner Quest's crossclaim. The other parties do not object to sealing the Manual Excerpt and Contract.

         In Ashcraft v. Conoco, Inc., 218 F.3d 288, 302 (4th Cir. 2000), the Fourth Circuit noted that a district court "has supervisory power over its own records and may, in its discretion, seal documents if the public's right of access is outweighed by competing interests." (Internal quotation marks omitted). However, there is a presumption in favor of public access to court records. Id. In order to seal documents, the court must "(1) provide public notice of the request to seal and allow interested parties a reasonable opportunity to object, (2) consider less drastic alternatives to sealing the documents, and (3) provide specific reasons and factual findings supporting its decision to seal the documents and for rejecting the alternatives." Id.

         Public notice has been satisfied through docketing of Young Life's motion to seal. See Local Civ. R. D.S.C. 5.03(D). Young Life contends that the Contract contains proprietary information regarding the design, component parts, and the installation process for the three-person giant swing. (Mot. Seal 6, ECF No. 99.) The Plaintiff's complaint alleges negligence and strict liability claims arising from the death of Olivia Grimes, who was thrown from the three-person swing. (Compl., generally, ECF No. 1.) Inner Quest designed the swing at issue. (Inner Quest Answer ¶¶ 10-11, ECF No. 74.) The Contract is relevant to Young Life's motion for summary judgment because of an indemnity clause which purports to require Young Life to indemnify Inner Quest. (Young Life Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1 (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 8), ECF No. 100-1.) However, the Contract contains detailed design information. This information is proprietary to Inner Quest and disclosure could be damaging to its business interests. See Emergency Fuel, LLC v. Pennzoil-Quaker State Co., 187 F.Supp.2d 575, 583 (D. Md. 2002) (sealing confidential commercial information because "public disclosure could unfairly damage the parties' business and financial interests"), aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, and remanded, No. 02-1391, 2003 WL 21772131, at *1 (Fed. Cir. July 25, 2003) (unpublished). Therefore, the court finds cause to grant Young Life's motion to seal as to the Contract.

         In contrast, the court finds that there is no basis to seal the Manual Excerpt. There is no evidence that the Manual Excerpt contains confidential and proprietary information that could damage Young Life if disclosed. The first page, which contains the "Mission and Vision of Young Life" is identical to information located on Young Life's website. Mission and Vision of Young Life, YOUNG LIFE, https://www.younglife.org/About/Pages/MissionandVision.aspx (last visited Jan. 13, 2017). Further, the second page which describes Young Life's development of its safety policies is important to the Plaintiff's negligence claims, and the public has an interest ‘in information central to this case. Based on the foregoing, Young Life has demonstrated that there is cause to seal the Contract, but has failed to overcome the public's presumptive right to access judicial documents and records as to the Manual Excerpt. Stone v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 178, 180 (4th Cir. 1988).

         It is therefore

         ORDERED that Young Life's motion to seal, docket number 99, is granted in part and denied in part. It is further

         ORDERED that Young Life file the Manual Excerpt as an additional attachment to its motion for summary judgment, docket number 100. Young Life may file the contract under seal using the event "Sealed Document."

         IT ...


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