Toe v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
After a rollover crash in 2007 killed one passenger and severely injured the others, the accident victims sued in Iowa state court. As part of their case, the plaintiffs’ attorneys obtained key documents showing that Cooper was aware of dangerous defects in several of its tire lines. Although the parties had agreed to a protective order, these documents were then used as evidence during the trial, and several witnesses testified about them.
In March 2010, a jury found Cooper fully at fault for the crash. The next month, however, Cooper filed a “motion to maintain protective order,” which, if granted, would have required the sealing not only of the trial exhibits, but also portions of the trial transcript.
Public Justice moved to intervene on behalf of the Center for Auto Safety in order to oppose Cooper’s motion. In January 2012, the court denied Cooper’s motion as to the trial transcript, but granted it as to the documents that had been produced pursuant to the protective order on grounds that they are trade secrets.
The jury verdict against Cooper was affirmed by the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the Iowa Supreme Court denied review, so the jury verdict will stand.
Staff Attorney Leslie Bailey was lead counsel for Intervenor the Center for Auto Safety. Co-counsel were Stuart Ollanik of Boulder, Colo., and Emily Anderson of Riccolo & Semelroth, P.C. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The plaintiffs were represented by Kyle Farrar and Wesley Ball of Houston, Texas; Frederick James of Des Moines; and John Gsanger of Corpus Christi, Texas.
- Leslie Bailey
Stuart Ollanik and Emily Andreson
The court held that the transcript of the public trial will not be sealed, but that certain documents Cooper produced pursuant to a protective order will remain confidential even though they were used as trial exhibits.
This brief argues that the trial records cannot be sealed unless the court finds that Cooper has provided a compelling reason for secrecy that outweighs the public's presumptive right of access to court records and the strong public interest in materials concerning matters of safety.
Jury found Cooper one-hundred percent liable for the crash; found that the tire company had exhibited "willful and wanton disregard" for safety; and awarded the plaintiffs more than $32 million in damages, including punitive damages.