United States District Court, D. Delaware
JOAN E. QUINN, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of JAMES ALBERT QUINN, Deceased; JAMES ARNOLD QUINN; ELIZABETH QUINN; STEPHANE PHEILSTICKER; SARAH QUINN and ERIN QUINN, Plaintiffs,
AVCO CORPORATION, LYCOMING ENGINES, CONTINENTAL MOTORS, INC., TELEDYNE CONTINENTAL MOTORS, INC., BENDIX CORPORATION, ALLIED-SIGNAL, INC., HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., JOHN DOE 1-50, and JOHN DOE 51-100, Defendants.
before me is Defendant Honeywell International Inc.'s
Motion to Intervene Pursuant to Court Order. (D.I. 139).
Honeywell and Defendant Continental Motors, Inc.
("Continental") have briefed the issues. (D.I. 139,
148, 156). For the reasons set out below, Honeywell's
motion to intervene is GRANTED and its
request that I deny Continental's request for production
of Honeywell's settlement agreement with Plaintiffs is
filed this lawsuit on November 2, 2015 following the November
5, 2013 crash of a Piper PA-32R-301 aircraft which killed the
pilot and a flight instructor. (D.I. 148 at ¶¶
1-2). The complaint contains claims against Defendant
Honeywell, manufacturer of the airplane's autopilot
system; Defendants AVCO Corp. and Lycoming Engines,
manufacturers of the airplane's engine; and Continental,
manufacturer of the engine's single drive dual magneto.
(Id. At ¶2). Plaintiff settled its claims
against Honeywell in April of 2018. (D.I. 139 at ¶ 2).
Defendant Continental requested that Plaintiffs produce
copies of its settlement agreements on May 31, 2018 and July
27, 2018. (Id. at ¶6). On August 14, 2018, I
entered an order requiring Plaintiffs to produce settlement
agreements related to the airplane crash unless the settling
parties intervened within two weeks. (D.I. 134). Honeywell
filed the present motion to intervene on August 24, 2018.
(D.I. 139). Honeywell's motion addresses both the
procedural standard for a motion to intervene and the
substantive issue of discoverability of Honeywell's
settlement agreement ("Agreement") with Plaintiffs.
(Id.). Defendant Continental argues only the
substantive issue. (D.I. 148 at 3). Because Honeywell's
request to intervene is uncontested, I will grant its motion
and consider its objection to disclosure of the Agreement.
within the Third Circuit have placed a heightened burden upon
a party seeking discovery of a confidential settlement
agreement. Specifically, courts have required the moving
party to make a 'particularized showing' that the
evidence is likely to lead to the discovery of admissible
evidence." Burlington v. News Corp., 2015 WL
2070063, at *3 (E.D. Pa. May 4, 2015) (collecting cases).
Defendant Continental argues that it can make such a
"particularized showing" for the Agreement. (D.I.
148 at ¶ 10). Specifically, it argues the Agreement is
"potentially relevant to the bias, prejudice, and
credibility of potential witnesses" and to its liability
in this case. (Id.). Continental does not address
which specific witnesses the Agreement might reveal as
biased. Honeywell notes that Continental has not subpoenaed
any Honeywell witness or explained how the Agreement could
show bias. (D.I. 156 at ¶ 11 and n. 1). On this point, I
agree with Honeywell. Continental has not made a
"particularized showing" that the Agreement would
"likely lead to the discovery of admissible
evidence" of witness bias, prejudice, or credibility.
Vague generalizations that there is some potential that the
Agreement would lead to evidence impugning an undisclosed
witness are simply insufficient.
Continental's argument regarding information related to
its liability is more persuasive. Continental notes, and
Honeywell does not dispute, that the applicable law in this
case may be that of Wisconsin, Delaware, or Alabama. (D.I.
¶¶ 18, 19). Depending on which law is applied,
Defendant may be entitled to a set-off or to inform the jury
of the Agreement. See Morris v. Luster, 821 So.2d
923, 931 (Ala. 2001) ("[T]he defendant must be allowed
the election of either informing the jury of the settlement
or choosing a postjudgment set-off performed by the trial
court."); Med. Ctr. of Delaware, Inc. v.
Mullins, 637 A.2d 6, 7-9 (Del. 1994) (discussing the
right to set-off under Delaware law and recognizing an
admission in a release may trigger the right); Brandner
v. Allstate Ins. Co., 512 N.W.2d 753 (Wis. 1994)
(discussing the impact of releases on set-offs and
non-settling defendant's rights under Wisconsin law).
Because the Agreement itself may be admissible evidence,
Continental has met its burden of making a particularized
showing that the disclosure is likely to lead to discovery of
admissible evidence. Moreover, the potential harm to
Honeywell from the disclosure of its agreement to Defendant
Contintental's counsel is substantially diminished by the
Parties' protective order.
GRANT Honeywell's motion to intervene
(D.I. 139) and I DENY its request that I
deny Continental's request for production of the
Agreement. Plaintiffs should produce the Agreement, ...