Siblings suing Purdue will have to release phone recordings

A brother and sister suing Purdue University over an alleged breach of contract will have to disclose their previously recorded phone conversations with school officials after the Tippecanoe Circuit Court found discovery rules demand the release of the audio.

Ricardo Torreblanca and his sister, Paola Torreblanca-Fisher sued Purdue after they say the West Lafayette school reneged on its promises. The plaintiffs claim Purdue was paid $13.53 million for 21 projects they established and developed between the university and their home country of Peru. Under the terms of their verbal and written agreements with Purdue, the Torreblancas assert they are entitled to 10% of the money.

To support their claims, the brother and sister revealed they had recorded numerous phone conversations with Purdue employees as they forged their business relationship. Most of the audio files were turned over to the university, but the siblings sought a protective order to withhold six recordings until after the depositions.

The Torreblancas told the court they had concerns that releasing the audio early would enable the witnesses to match their testimony to the recordings.

Purdue countered they are entitled to the recordings. The university, citing the plaintiffs’ own admission that the audio contains “substantive evidence of the oral agreement” between Purdue and the Torreblancas, argued disclosure prior to the depositions would “promote the efficient interest of justice.”

In an order issued May 24, Special Judge Steven Meyer of Tippecanoe Superior Court 2 sided with Purdue.

“The Court gives more weight to substantive nature of the evidence (than) it does to the concern raised by Plaintiffs that the disclosure of the recordings before the deposition may cause defense witness to ‘tailor’ their testimony or that disclosure would jeopardize the ability later impeach a witness,” Meyer wrote. “Afterall, the purpose of Indiana’s discovery rules is to ‘allow a liberal discovery procedure for the purpose of providing litigants with information essential to the litigation of all relevant issues, eliminate surprise and to promote discovery.’”

Before getting the ruling, the case took an unexpected turn.

Oral arguments on the protective order were heard March 31. On April 12, Tippecanoe Circuit Court Judge Sean Persin filed an order recusing himself from the proceedings. He provided no explanation for the recusal.

Meyer, selected by the plaintiffs and defendants, was appointed a special judge April 26.

A jury trial has been scheduled to start June 6, 2023.

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