United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge
the Court is Defendants and Plaintiffs' motions to seal.
(Dkt. Nos. 50, 51, 53, 54.) For the reasons set forth below,
the Court grants Defendants' motions to seal (Dkt. Nos.
50, 51, 54) and grants in part and denies in part
Plaintiffs' motion to seal (Dkt. No. 53.)
September 5, 2015, Plaintiff Gary Holliday was involved in an
accident on 1-95 in Wilson County, North Carolina while
driving his 2011 Nissan Sentra. (Dkt. No. 10 at ¶ 30.)
Gary Holliday and his wife, Plaintiff Soinya Holliday, bring
claims against Defendants Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Nissan
North America, Inc., Calsonic Kansei North America, Inc., and
Calsonic Kansei Corporation, as the developers, manufacturers
and sellers of the occupant restraint system that allegedly
failed to deploy during the accident. (Id. at
¶¶ 37 - 42.) The Court previously denied as moot
Calsonic Kansei North America's ("CKNA") motion
to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and granted
jurisdictional discovery to determine whether the Court has
specific jurisdiction over CKNA. (Dkt. No. 37.) After the
close of jurisdictional discovery, Defendant CKNA renewed
their motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
(Dkt. No. 52.)
of the briefing of the renewed motion to dismiss, the Parties
moved to file under seal a variety of putatively confidential
documents and depositions. Defendant CKNA, in its motions
seeks solely to file under seal the deposition of a corporate
representative. (Dkt. Nos. 50, 51, 54.) Plaintiffs seek to
seal their entire filing in Response to Defendant CKNA's
motion to dismiss, which includes the Memo itself, the
deposition of the corporate representative, and various other
documents produced during jurisdictional discovery. (Dkt. No.
to Local Civil Rule 5.03, a party seeking to file documents
under seal shall file a motion and a memorandum, which shall:
(1) identify, with specificity, the documents or portions
thereof for which sealing is requested; (2) state the reasons
why sealing is necessary; (3) explain (for each document or
group of documents) why less drastic alternatives to sealing
will not afford adequate protection; and (4) address the
factors governing sealing of documents reflected in
controlling case law.
Civil Rule 5.03, D.S.C. Furthermore, pursuant to the Local
Rule, "[t]he Clerk shall provide public notice of the
Motion to Seal in the manner directed by the Court.. .this
may be accomplished by docketing the motion in a manner that
discloses its nature as a motion to seal." Id.
The Supreme Court recognized a common law right to inspect
and copy judicial records and documents in Nixon
v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597
(1978). This right is not absolute, however, and the court
"may, in its discretion, seal documents if the
public's right of access is outweighed by competing
interests." Ashcraft v. Conoco, Inc., 218 F.3d
288 (4th Cir. 2000), describes the process a district court
must follow before sealing court documents:
[B]efore a district court may seal any court documents, ...
it 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. at 302 (citations omitted).
procedural requirements of Local Rule 5.03 have been met
here. (Dkt. Nos. 50, 51, 53, 54.) The Parties motions
complied with the rule, the public received notice of the
request to seal when the motions were docketed, and no
parties objected. While the Court finds that sealing is
appropriate for the deposition of the corporate
representative, Greg Deibig, including any materials that
directly quote from the deposition, the Court finds that
there are less drastic alternatives to sealing the
Plaintiffs' entire Response in Opposition to CKNA's
motion to dismiss.
Plaintiffs and CKNA agree that Deibig's deposition should
be filed under seal as it contains proprietary business
information. Upon review of the deposition excerpts, it is
clear the deposition contains sensitive business and
financial information, and the Court finds it appropriate to
permit those documents to be filed under seal.
Plaintiffs' motion, however, also seeks to seal multiple
documents that are not properly designated as confidential.
Notably, Plaintiffs argue that they are seeking to seal their
entire Response as it may contain Defendant CKNA's
proprietary information. (Dkt. No. 53-1.) However, Defendant
CKNA has not similarly sought to seal their own Motion to
Dismiss, although it also extensively cites to Deibig's
deposition. (Dkt. No. 52.) Further, the other exhibits
included for sealing by Plaintiffs' do not contain
confidential or proprietary information. One exhibit is a
publicly accessible annual report from Nissan, and the other
two exhibits include contracts with Honda and Volvo that
Defendant CKNA, in its publicly filed memo, discussed. (Dkt.
No. 52 at 9; 9 n.4.) The documents also contain emails and
advertising materials, and neither Party has argued that
these documents in particular are confidential and instead
they seem to contain information shared with potential
Court therefore declines to seal Plaintiffs Response in
Opposition memo or Exhibits 2, 3 or 4. Plaintiffs' are
permitted to file under seal Exhibit 1, the excerpts from
Deibig's deposition. Further, in order to maintain the
confidentiality of the Deibig deposition, Plaintiffs should
file on the docket their Response in Opposition memo with all
direct quotes from the Deibig deposition redacted.
Plaintiffs should also file an unredacted version of their
Response in Opposition under seal. Finally, as it discusses
sensitive business information, the redacted Response in
Opposition filed on the docket should also redact the first
four full sentences of the ...