Baughman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.

160 Ohio App.3d 642, 2005-Ohio-1948, 828 N.E.2d 211 (9th Dist. 2005)

This appeal arose out of a class action filed on behalf of State Farm policyholders against State Farm for failing to disclose a significant change in their motor vehicle insurance policies resulting from a change in the law that affected their uninsured motorist coverage.

During discovery, the parties entered into a protective order which permitted State Farm to mark as confidential documents it produced in discovery, and required court filings referencing such documents to be filed under seal. When State Farm later filed a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs filed their brief in opposition under seal, as they discussed and attached many of the confidential documents. The trial court granted State Farm’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed. While that appeal was pending, the plaintiffs asked the trial court to unseal their summary judgment filings as the public had a right to know what was in these documents and State Farm had not met its burden of showing good cause to keep the documents under seal.

The trial court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments, but the court of appeals reversed. The court found that the unambiguous language of the protective order placed the burden of showing good cause on State Farm as the party wishing to maintain the documents’ secrecy, and that State Farm had not met that burden. The court also found that the plaintiffs’ request to unseal was not untimely, and that State Farm was not prejudiced by the unsealing of the documents.

Plaintiffs’ attorney on the appeal: Kathleen J. St. John (David M. Paris was lead counsel on the case, but his name is not on this opinion)