Certain trial exhibits that were elemental in a recently settled a wind vs. water case in Louisiana must remain part of the public record, a Louisiana district court judge has ruled.
United States District Judge Sarah Vance in New Orleans on Aug. 16 refused to seal some of the trial exhibits in Weiss v. Allstate, a case that was settled earlier this year.
According to the judge’s order, “Allstate sought protection for ‘its claims manual and other manuals and documents used by field adjusters after Hurricane Katrina who adjusted claims made on Allstate homeowner insurance policies,” asserting that “production of these materials not subject to a protective order may put the company at a competitive disadvantage . . . .’ (Id.).”
Public Justice, a national public interest law firm headquartered in Washington D.C., and the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), however, intervened in the case, seeking to keep the documents available to the public.
According to the FTCR, several months after the jury verdict in Weiss, the insurance company asked the court to either return or seal the trial exhibits. Representing FTCR, Public Justice opposed Allstate’s request on the ground that the trial exhibits provide insight into Allstate’s decision-making process and that denying public access to them “would directly impede FCTR’s mission of educating the public about insurance practices and abuses.” The motion to seal was also opposed by plaintiffs’ counsel in the case.
In Aug. 16 ruling the Court noted that “[p]ublic access serves to enhance the transparency and trustworthiness of the judicial process, to curb judicial abuses, and to allow the public to understand the judicial system better.”
The documents are available for download at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/insurance/AllstateKatrina/.
The court order and briefs for Weiss v. Allstate may be found at http://www.publicjustice.net/briefs_documents.htm.
Sources: Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, U.S. District Court for Eastern Louisiana
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