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COA affirms confidentiality of deposition in litigation between Greek brothers

April 19, 2017

Discovery materials protected in Indiana courts under a protective order cannot be used in litigation between two brothers in Greece, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

Constantinos and Theodore Angelopoulos are brothers and Greek citizens who live in Greece. Their father, Panayiotis Angelopoulos, founded several companies that owned the assets of the brothers’ combined business activities before his death in 2001.

After their father’s death, the brothers were each entitled to three-eighths of his estate. Constantinos Angelopoulos believed one of his father’s companies, Beta Steel, which has its main facility in Portage, Indiana, belonged in the estate, thus entitling him to three-eighths of that company. However, Greek courts founds Panayiotis Angelopoulos had, inter vivos, transferred ownership of Beta Steel to Theodore Angelopoulos.

Constantinos Angelopoulos filed a claim in Porter Superior Court in 2008, against asserting he had a right to three-eighths of the company under Greek inheritance laws. During discovery, the parties entered into a protective order which provided that the parties could designate certain documents that included trade secrets as confidential and that such documents could only be used “solely for the purposes of this action.”

After the Porter Superior Court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, Constantinos Angelopoulos appealed, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in a previous ruling. The appellate court held that the rulings in Greek courts found that Theodore Angelopoulos was the sole owner of Beta Steel, and on the grounds of res judicata and comity, the matter could not be relitigated in Indiana.

However, the appellate court also reversed the trial court’s order regarding public access to Theodore Angelopoulos’ depositions, which had earlier been designated as confidential in part. The matter was remanded with instructions for Theodore Angelopoulos to prove by clear and convincing evidence that portions of his deposition should not be open to public access under Administrative Rule 9.

On remand, Constantinos Angelopoulos filed a motion to modify the protective order, seeking permission to use discovery materials that had been designated as confidential in pending or future action between he and his brother in Greece. Meanwhile, Theodore Angelopoulos presented evidence to the court that revealing the details of his sale of Beta Steel would increase threats against his family.

In a February 2016 order, the Porter Superior Court denied Constantinos Angelopoulos’ motion to modify the protective order while finding that his brother had adequately proven portions of his deposition should remain confidential.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in a Wednesday opinion, with Judge Paul Mathias writing that based on the evidence Theodore Angelopoulos presented, “the trial court could reasonably conclude that Theodore had met his burden of showing that the release of his deposition testimony would create a significant risk of substantial harm to Theodore and his family.”

Further, Mathias wrote that Constantinos Angelopoulos’ motion to modify the protective order showed he “merely desires to use Indiana’s generous discovery process to discover information that would apparently not be permitted in Greece and be allowed to use these materials in Greece.”

“Unless and until a Greek court decides that such materials would be admissible in the proceedings before the Greek court, a decision to which our courts would afford comity, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion by declining Constantinos’ request to modify the protective order,” Mathias wrote.

The case is Constantinos P. Angelopoulos v. Theodore P. Angelopoulos, Neptunia, Inc., Transmar Corp., Didiac Establishment, Beta Steel Corp., and Top Gun Investment Corp. II, 64A03-1603-PL-518.
 

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