Sunshine in Litigation Act of 2011 was introduced in Congress by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) to restrict the
circumstances under which federal courts enter protective orders or seal
cases and settlements in civil actions “in which the pleadings state
facts that are relevant to the protection of public health or safety.”
Kohl specifically referred to the excessive use of protective orders in
product liability actions.
According to Kohl, “This legislation does not prohibit secrecy agreements
across the board, and it does not place an undue burden on judges or on
our courts. It simply states that where the public interest in disclosure
outweighs legitimate interests in secrecy, courts should not shield important
health and safety information from the public. The time to focus some
sunshine on public hazards to prevent future harms is now.”
In support of the legislation, Kohl referred to the Bridgestone/Firestone
cases, pointing out that:
From 1992 to 2000, tread separations of various Bridgestone and Firestone
tires caused accidents across the country, many resulting in serious injuries
and even fatalities. Instead of owning up to their mistakes and acting
responsibly, Bridgestone/Firestone quietly settled dozens of lawsuits,
most of which included secrecy agreements. It wasn’t until 1999,
when a Houston public television station broke the story, that the company
acknowledged its wrongdoing and recalled 6.5 million tires. By then, it
was too late. More than 250 people had died and more than 800 were injured
as a result of the defective tires.
The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
If you or someone you love has suffered a serious injury as a result of
a defective product in California,
contact experienced San Diego personal injury attorney
for a free consultation.