United States District Court, D. Connecticut
GLEN GRAYSON and DOREEN MAZZANTI, individually and on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTIONS TO SEAL AND TO
W. Eginton Senior United States District Judge
action is a putative class action on behalf of consumers who
purchased defendant General Electric Company's
(“GE”) microwave ovens with an alleged design
defect that caused the glass doors to shatter.
moves to have this Court seal certain information in
exhibits, memoranda, expert reports and depositions.
Defendant also moves to preclude expert testimony and reports
of Thomas Read, Abraham Wyner and Colin Weir pursuant to
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow
Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).
review, the Court will grant the motions to seal in part, and
it will deny the motions to seal in part. The motion to
preclude Read's expert testimony and report will be
denied; the motion to preclude Wyner's expert testimony
and report will be denied in part, denied in part without
prejudice, and granted in part; and the motion to preclude
Weir's expert testimony and report will be denied without
showing of compelling circumstances, the court may order
certain records to be sealed. See Joy v. North, 692
F.2d 880, 893 (2d Cir.1982). Judicial records enjoy a
“presumption of openness” that is rebuttable upon
a demonstration that sealing the record will preserve high
values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.
Hartford Courant Co. v. Pellegrino, 380 F.3d 83, 96
(2d Cir. 2004). Where the public interest in the case is
higher, restraints on access are less acceptable and a
greater showing is necessary to overcome the presumption of
access. In re Agent Orange Product Liability
Litigation, 104 F.R.D. 559, 573 (E.D.N.Y. 1985). Class
actions are by definition of public interest because some
members of the public are members of the case, and “the
standards for denying public access to the record”
should therefore be strictly construed. Shane Group, Inc.
v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, 825 F.3d 299, 305
(6th Cir. 2016).
district court enjoys considerable discretion in determining
whether good cause exists to overcome the presumption of open
access to documents filed in federal courts. Geller v.
Branic Int'l. Realty Corp., 212 F.3d 734, 738 (2d
Cir. 2000). A judge should carefully and skeptically review
sealing requests to insure that there is an extraordinary
circumstance or compelling need. In re Orion Pictures
Corp., 21 F.3d 24, 27 (2d Cir. 1994).
falling into categories commonly sealed are those containing
trade secrets, confidential research and development
information, marketing plans, revenue information, pricing
information, and the like.” Cumberland Packing
Corp. v. Montsanto Co., 184 F.R.D. 504, 506 (E.D.N.Y.
1999). However, courts have not afforded significant weight
to non-trade secret but confidential business information,
which is not entitled to the same level of protection from
disclosure as trade secret information. Littlejohn v. BIC
Corp., 851 F.2d 673, 685 (3d Cir. 1988). Business
documents that are secret or that might cause adverse
publicity if disclosed do not automatically warrant a
protective order, and broad allegations of harm
unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning
fail to satisfy the standard for nondisclosure. In re
Parmaat Securities Litig., 258 F.R.D. 236, 244 (S.D.N.Y.
courts consider the following six factors to assess whether
information is “sufficiently valuable and secret”
to merit protection: (1) The extent to which the information
is known outside of the business; (2) the extent to which it
is known by employees and others involved in the business;
(3) the extent of measures taken by the business to guard the
secrecy of the information; (4) the value of the information
to the business and its competitors; (5) the amount of effort
or money expended by the business in developing the
information; (6) the ease or difficulty with which the
information could be properly acquired or duplicated by
to Seal Certain Confidential Information
seeks to seal documents filed in connection with
plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Defendant
argues that sealing documents reflecting its analysis of
consumer injuries and complaints of defective microwaves is
necessary to protect confidential and proprietary
information. In particular, defendant asserts that the
records contain confidential business information, the
disclosure of which might harm its reputation and competitive
defendant seeks sealing of documents from its Microwave Oven
Product Line Safety Council; excerpts from its Safety
Database pertaining to alleged incidents of glass door
breakage in its microwave ovens; excerpts from its Factory
Service Database; deposition testimony related to pricing,
repair cost and other confidential information; and redacted
portions of the parties' expert reports that pertain to
from Safety Council, Safety Database and Service
asserts that the GE Microwave Safety Council includes only
senior technical, legal and business leaders within GE's
Appliance & Lighting business; it reviews data and
information to determine whether further action should be
undertaken. Defendant requests that Safety Council documents
be sealed as sensitive, proprietary business information,
which reveals how GE reviews safety issues of its microwave
ovens; approval and implementation of corrective actions; and
procedures of corrective measures by GE and its suppliers.
states that its Safety Database contains confidential and
proprietary information including the identity of GE's
suppliers, discussions of issues associated with certain GE
product lines, not limited to microwave ovens; corrective
action determinations; and confidential personal information.
explains that information from its Service Database concerns
product parts that required repair or replacement that is not
limited to glass breakage.
maintains that it has restricted dissemination of these
documents and stored them on a secure drive. Defendant
asserts that disclosure would cause harm because competitors
could improve their own business and or develop a
branded-product business. Defendant states: “If
GE's competitors were to gain access to documentation
regarding potential future designs, recommended modifications
of existing designs, and performance issues relating to
GE-branded microwave ovens, GE's competitors would
unfairly gain a competitive advantage.” Defendant goes
on to express concern that competitors could use or distort
information regarding consumer issues and concerns associated
with its microwaves because the documents contain information
based on unsubstantiated consumer complaints. Finally,
defendant argues that the personally identifiable information
of GE consumers justifies sealing the documents.
complaints and information relevant thereto involving the
allegedly defective microwave are highly relevant to the
class certification of this case and to members of the
public, putative class members who may own the defective
microwaves. Generally, the Court finds that the risk of
competitive harm to defendant is lower than the high level of
public interest in a class action involving a defective
product that could potentially cause harm.
the Court will deny the motion to seal with regard to the
Microwave Safety Council documents G1, G2, G3, G4, which
reflect consumer complaints and reveal little information
about designs or marketing that could enable a competitor to
gain an unfair economic or competitive advantage. Although
defendant expresses concern that it will suffer reputational
injury if competitors have access to unsubstantiated consumer
complaints, plaintiffs point out that consumer complaints are
accessible to the public through the Consumer Product Safety
Commission. The Court is not persuaded that defendant's
concern for competitive harm or reputational injury outweigh
the presumption of public access and the public interest in
product safety. The Court will deny the motion to seal as to
consumer reports of microwave oven glass door breakage.
However, the Court will grant the motion to seal as to
consumer personal identifying information regarding
defendant's consumers should be redacted.
Court will grant the motion to seal as documents G5 through
G12, which reveal defendant's internal investigations,
communications, and policies and procedures of the Microwave
Safety Council relevant to problems with the defendant's
microwaves. Defendant has expended resources to develop these
analyses of microwave safety issues; it has taken measures to
ensure that this information is confidential and that the
information is not known outside of the Microwave Safety
Council. The Court finds that sealing this information is
appropriate as disclosure could cause defendant significant
the Court finds that the names of defendant's suppliers
should be redacted. Defendant has limited disclosure of its
supplier information by allowing for access only upon
entering a code found on the microwave product; broad
disclosure of such information could likely cause defendant a
competitive harm that outweighs consumers' interest in
Court will grant the motion to seal redactions to F1 and F2
from the Microwave Safety Database and Factory Service
Database, respectively, regarding the product manufacturers
and consumer identifying information.
Court will deny the motion to seal as to references to
consumer incident reports regarding microwave oven glass door
breakage as reflected in these exhibits.
Sales and Profit Information
represent that they do not oppose sealing documents
concerning pricing and profit, with the exception of sales
information detailing the number of microwaves sold.
Defendant maintains that this information should be sealed
because it is drawn from confidential sales figures.
Information concerning the amount of microwaves sold relates
directly to confidential information about pricing and
profit, and disclosure thereof could cause defendant
competitive harm. See Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs.
Co., 727 F.3d 1214, 1225 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (holding that
detailed product-specific financial information, including
costs, sales and profits merited sealing as confidential
information). Accordingly, the Court will grant the motion to
seal as to the documents or information relevant to pricing,
sales and profit.
seeks to seal exhibits H1 and H3-H6 containing documents
related to the design and design changes of the allegedly
defective GE microwave oven. This is the type of information
that is generally kept confidential and outweighs the
presumption of public access due to its importance to
competition in the relevant field. See Culinary Foods v.
Raychem Corp., 151 F.R.D. 297, 305 (N.D.Ill. 1993)
(noting that disclosure of Raychem's product design
modification and changes would decrease Raychem's
incentive to invest in safety devices).
the Court will not grant the motion to seal as to Exhibit H1,
which is entitled Branded Product Change Request
(“BPCR”). The BPCR document indicates an
origination date of November 26, 2001, with approvals on
November 27, 2001, and January 14, 2002. It details a
proposed change to the manufacture of the spring hinge of the
1090/1095 microwave oven door. Defendant has a weaker
interest in retaining confidentiality in a document
describing changes to products that have been in the market
for years. See Gustafson v. Goodman Mfr. Co. LP,
2016 WL 393640 (D. Ariz. Feb. 2, 2016).
maintains that its competitors could use the information in
Exhibit H1 to better understand how defendant develops
products, considers design elements, and assesses risks.
However, such concern for confidentiality is diminished due
to the age of the document, the fact that the 1090/1095
models are no longer being produced, and the limited amount
of information contained therein. Further, the document
presents important information to the putative class members
regarding the fact that a change to spring hinge occurred
relevant to the 1090/1095 ...