Goodyear Sanction Suit Remanded Over Strident Dissent

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By Bernie Pazanowski

Sanctions on Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. lawyers will have to be redetermined after a June 8 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit remand order, over a strong dissent that called them out by name ( Haeger v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. , 2017 BL 194166, 9th Cir., No. 12-17718, 6/8/17 ).

When attorneys fail to produce directly relevant evidence that an opposing party is entitled to receive, they abandon the basic principles of justice, dissenting Judge Paul J. Watford said.

The plaintiffs originally sued Goodyear alleging they were injured in an accident caused by malfunctioning tires.

The district court ultimately sanctioned Goodyear $2.7 million for failing to produce “heat tests” that may have allowed the plaintiffs to secure a more favorable settlement.

On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that judges must establish a “causal connection” between a sanction and the fees incurred by victims as a result of the discovery abuse. The complaining party “may recover ‘only the portion of his fees that he would not have paid but for’ the misconduct,” it said.

The Ninth Circuit’s June 8 order, signed by Judges J. Clifford Wallace and Milan D. Smith, vacated the sanction and sent the case back to the district court to recalculate it “consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.”

Dissent Lashes Out

But Goodyear only challenged $722,406 of the sanction, Watford argued. Thus the remaining $2 million should stand, he said.

Watford also stressed that the misconduct in this case was egregious and in bad faith. “The deceit and dishonorable conduct of Graeme Hancock and Basil J. Musnuff in this case were unworthy of members of the bar and their disgrace serves as an admonition to all members of the bar,” he said.

Squires Sanders LLP represented Goodyear. Osborn Maledon PA represented Musnuff. Snell & Wilmer LLP represented Hancock. Jennings Strouss & Salmon PLC represented the plaintiffs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

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