In re Midland National Life Insurance Co

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 07-25-2012
  • Case #: 11-55369
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judges Fletcher, Wardlaw and Bybee
  • Full Text Opinion

A Daubert motion filed in connection with a pending summary judgment motion may be dispositive and require continuing compelling reasons be shown to maintain a sealed record. The Ninth Circuit exception for records attached to a non-dispositive motion, requiring only "good cause" to maintain a sealed record, is not automatically applied to Daubert motions.

Allianz Life Insurance Company (“Allianz”) was one of a number of defendants whom plaintiffs asserted similar class action claims against. Plaintiffs relied on an attached declaration from an expert witness to, “support their theory of causation and class-wide damages.” Allianz filed a motion to exclude this expert testimony, per Daubert, and filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court deferred ruling on Allianz’s motions until the court ruled on the findings of a court appointed expert witness, concerning similar defendants substantively identical motions. The plaintiffs challenged the admissibility of the court appointed expert’s testimony. The court sealed the report until ruling on its admissibility. Before the district court ruled on admissibility, the parties settled out of court. Allianz filed a motion to intervene and requested the court appointed expert witness’s report be unsealed. The district court found the report related to a non-dispositive Daubert motion requiring only “good cause” to maintain the records as sealed, and declined to unseal the records. The Ninth Circuit reviewed the district courts application of the “good cause” standard de novo for abuse of discretion. The Ninth Circuit held that Daubert motions filed in connection with pending summary judgment motions may be dispositive. The Court reasoned that, “plaintiffs themselves described these Daubert proceedings as ‘absolutely critical’ and ‘potential[ly] case dispositive.’” The Ninth Circuit agreed with Allianz that the judicial records at issue were filed, “’in connection’ with pending summary judgment motions” and that the records pertained to “central issues bearing on [Allianz’s] summary judgment motion.” The Court held plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the non-dispositive exception applied and therefore the district court erred by applying the reduced “good cause” standard to deny Allianz’s motion to unseal the records. The Court ruled the “records should be made public.” REVERSED and REMANDED.

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