Trial Court Order Threatened Defendant’s Interest in the Confidentiality of Business Documents

Rocket Group, LLC v. Jatib, 4D13-134 (Fla. 4th DCA May 29, 2013):

Jatib (“Plaintiff”) sued Rocket Group (“Defendant”) for breach of the company’s operating agreement and dissolution of the company based on deadlock. Plaintiff and another individual founded Rocket Group, but disputes between them led to a deadlock in management. Plaintiff requested the production of numerous business documents. Defendant responded that the documents contained confidential information and objected to producing any of the requested documents until the court entered a mutually acceptable confidentiality order.

Plaintiff moved to compel better responses, representing that he agreed to sign a stipulation of confidentiality allowing him to use the documents only for purposes of this litigation. Plaintiff agreed that he had requested confidential documents. Defendant insisted on a court order. Defendant explained that if a confidential document were attached to a court filing, it would be available to the public. The trial court referenced the burdensomeness of the applicable rule and ruled that it would not allow the filing of anything under seal.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal (“Court”) agreed with Defendant that compelling the production of confidential documents, without a provision to protect them from exposure to the public record, merits certiorari relief. The Court reasoned that by precluding the parties from filing documents under seal, the trial court’s order threatened Defendant’s interest in the confidentiality of its documents.

Although confidential business documents are not specifically listed as records that are required to be kept confidential, any court record may be determined to be confidential if doing so is necessary to “avoid substantial injury to a party by disclosure of matters protected by a common law or privacy right not generally inherent in the specific type of proceeding sought to be closed[,]” Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(c)(9)(A)(vi), or to “comply with established public policy set forth in the Florida or United States Constitution or statutes or Florida rules or case law[.]” Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(c)(9)(A)(vii).