A Company that manufactured a car seat that allegedly caused the death of a baby cannot file a lawsuit in secret as "Company Doe". The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision indicating the corporation was not entitled to maintain confidentiality because the public and the press had a right to the information contained in civil proceedings (cases filed in court, usually alleging money damages to make up for some harm or loss).
This case involved the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, SaferProducts.gov,
This website, part of the CPSC, allows consumers to report unsafe or dangerous products and creates a database people can search.
In Maryland, the manufacturer of a product sued to have publication (on the website) of a report linking one of its products to the death of an infant. The manufacturer argued the report was materially inaccurate and shouldn't be published. Obviously not wanting to call attention to itself and its product by suing in it's own name to prevent the report from being made public, it sued anonymously.
The trial court allowed it to proceed as "Company Doe" but the appellate court reversed, sending the case back to the trial court in Greenbelt Maryland with instructions that the court records be unsealed.
Consumer advocacy groups had fought to have the company's name revealed, seeking access to judicial records for consumers. Several news organizations filed pleadings in court supporting the consumer advocacy groups and several business groups did the same on behalf of this manufacturer.
Why is this case important?
It's only been a few weeks since the news broke about GM covering up an ignition switch defect that caused several accidents and deaths. The identity of companies, manufacturers, and corporations is a key component to enforcing safety standards, to recalling unsafe products and to preventing injuries and deaths due to unsage products in the future.
And Americans have a right to see what (and who) is in the courts - a right of access to court documents and rulings. To read the full opinion, click here.