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High court overturns confidentiality order

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The Indiana Supreme Court today overturned a Marion Superior Court's approval of a "Confidentiality Stipulation and Order," clearing the way for hundreds of documents to be opened and available for public inspection.

Marion Superior Court originally granted the parties' request to seal documents in the litigation of Travelers Casualty and Surety Co., et al. v. United States Filter Corp. n/k/a Water Applications & Systems Corp., et al. No. 49A02-0604-CV-289, which is currently on appeal to the Supreme Court. The case involves insurance coverage for bodily injury claims caused by exposure to silica.

The high court ordered the parties in August to show cause as to why the documents in this case should be confidential. The original stipulation cited the parties agreed the discovery and disclosure of privileged, confidential, or sensitive information may come up in litigation.

The Supreme Court vacated the confidentiality order today because the parties didn't offer any particularized arguments as to why Indiana Administrative Rule 9(H) would have allowed the trial court to exclude documents it tendered. Under this rule, a public hearing must be conducted before the trial court can grant an exclusion of documents from public access, which didn't happen in this case, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

Waste Applications cited Richey v. Chappell, 594 N.E.2d 443 (Ind. 1992) to justify the confidentiality order, arguing some documents should be excluded from public access by virtue of "insurer-insured privilege" and documents submitted are excluded from public view by Administrative Rule 9(G)(1)(b).

But the protections recognized under that rule by itself do not exclude documents submitted to a court from public access because the mechanism to seek to exclude information by a specific court order appears in Rule 9(H), which requires a public hearing, wrote the chief justice.

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  1. He did not have an "unlicensed handgun" in his pocket. Firearms are not licensed in Indiana. He apparently possessed a handgun without a license to carry, but it's not the handgun that is licensed (or registered).

  2. Once again, Indiana's legislature proves how friendly it is to monopolies. This latest bill by Hershman demonstrates the lengths Indiana's representatives are willing to go to put big business's (especially utilities') interests above those of everyday working people. Maassal argues that if the technology (solar) is so good, it will be able to compete on its own. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the industries he represents. Instead, he wants to cut the small credit consumers get for using solar in order to "add a 'level of certainty'" to his industry. I haven't heard of or seen such a blatant money-grab by an industry since the days when our federal, state, and local governments were run by the railroad. Senator Hershman's constituents should remember this bill the next time he runs for office, and they should penalize him accordingly.

  3. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  4. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  5. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

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