In a pending negligence case in Philips County, the Circuit Court entered an order compelling Petitioner Cooper Tire & Rubber Company to fully and completely respond to the discovery requests made by the plaintiffs. The underlying case was a product's liability action, in which the Plaintiffs alleged the Company made defective tires that were ultimately responsible for the death of several people. The Plaintiffs made 467 specific requests for Company documents and materials. The Company alleged that many of the requested materials contained trade secrets or otherwise protected information. In all, Plaintiffs requested thousands of pages of materials that would cost the Company significant time and manpower to review, redact and produce to the Plaintiffs. The Company moved the Court to grant it time, or to limit the number of plaintiffsâ requests. The Court denied the Companyâs motions. The Company subsequently petitioned for a writ of certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, or other supervisory writ for relief from the Circuit Courtâs rulings. The Supreme Court granted the Company certiorari to review the case. On review, the Supreme Court found the Circuit Court âgrossly abused its discretion,â and vacated some of the Circuit Courtâs rulings pertaining to discovery deadlines and the production of Company materials.
Appellant Carol Conwayâs son Dennis Howard, was crushed to death in 2004 by an automated log-stacking machine while working at a Weyerhaeuser sawmill facility in North Carolina. Appellant filed suit against Appellee Hi-Tech Engineering, Inc. (HTE) alleging that the company had negligently and defectively designed, manufactured and marketed the log-stacking machine that killed her son. The trial court found that North Carolina law applied to the case, and the outcome would be determined by an analysis of North Carolinaâs âstatute of repose.â The parties cited different statutes of repose that they found in North Carolina law. Characterizing Appellantâs case as a âproducts liability action,â the court found that the applicable statute gives the defendant a âvested right not to be suedâ if the plaintiff fails to file a product liability action within a six-year period. Appellant relied heavily on the date and terms of the sales contract HTE held with the sawmill to determine when the six-year period started to trigger the statute. The court found that the date that HTE first sold the log-stacker was the controlling date. Appellant alleged the date the stacker was first accepted and used was the controlling date. The court entered summary judgment against Appellant because her claim was outside of the six-year period, and she appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The Court agreed with the trial courtâs analysis of Appellantâs claim, and affirmed the lower courtâs grant of summary judgment to HTE.