ATLANTA (Aug. 30, 2001)—A federal judge may not unseal Bridgestone/Firestone documents in a suit brought by four leading media corporations, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.
The panel remanded Judge Anthony Alaimo's decision to unseal documents connected with the Van Etten wrongful death case, ordering him to determine whether the papers contain trade secrets and whether the public interest overrides the tire maker's need for confidentiality.
Michael and Kim Van Etten settled with Bridgestone/Firestone in August 1999 in the case arising from the death of their son Daniel in a Ford Explorer equipped with Firestone tires, and the court documents were sealed as part of the agreement.
The Washington Post Co.,CBS Broadcasting, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune Co. petitioned Alaimo for release of the documents. A Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman said the company was “pleased with the thoughtful opinion issued by the 11th Circuit” and looked forward to showing in upcoming court briefings that the documents do indeed contain trade secrets.