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Case of the Month
September 2008

Case Overview

Russell Laffitte, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Angela Lynn Plyler, Respondent, v. Bridgestone Corporation, Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC, Ford Motor Company, Bubba Windham and Chuck Horton d/b/a Vintage Motors, Defendants, of whom Bridgestone Corporation is the Petitioner.

Angela and Justin Plyler were killed, and Alaina and Hannah Plyler were seriously injured, when their 1999 Ford Explorer overturned on I-95 in Hampton County on July 16, 2005. Their conservator and personal representative, Russell Laffitte (respondent), filed four lawsuits against numerous defendants, including petitioner (Bridgestone), the manufacturer of the vehicle’s tires. The complaints all alleged the tread separated from the left rear tire of the Explorer, causing the vehicle to overturn and collide with a tree, and that Bridgestone was negligent in, among other things: (1) failing to use proper manufacturing techniques when it knew or should have known the failure to do so would result in a defective tire; (2) failing to test and inspect the tire; (3) using an inadequate design; (4) failing to recall the tire; and (5) failing to use sufficient antidegradents to protect the integrity of the tire.

During discovery, respondent sought the skim stock formula used in manufacturing the tire. Bridgestone objected, claiming the skim stock formula was a trade secret. Respondent filed a motion to compel Bridgestone to produce the formula. Bridgestone opposed the motion, arguing the formula was a highly confidential trade secret. On August 20, 2007, the trial judge granted the motion to compel production of the skim stock formula, finding respondent met all the predicates for discovery of trade secret information under Rule 26, SCRCP, and the Trade Secrets Act. 1

Bridgestone thereafter petitioned the South Carolina Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction for a writ of certiorari to review the trial court’s order. Bridgestone argues respondents failed to meet the threshold requirements of the Trade Secrets Act to establish a substantial need for Bridgestone’s trade secret skim stock formula before obtaining discovery relating to the formula. Bridgestone also argues unwarranted disclosure of its trade secret formula will likely cause it irreparable harm that cannot be prevented or remedied by a protective order.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on these issues on Wednesday, September 17, 2008, at 10:30 a.m.


1S.C. Code Ann. §§ 39-8-10 to 39-8-130 (Supp. 2007).

 


Case Briefs

Petitioner's Final Brief
Final Reply Brief of Petitioner

  Respondent's Final Brief

 


Oral Arguments

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