Utica Mutual Insurance Company’s request that numerous exhibits filed in support of summary judgment be sealed has been rejected by a federal district court, which found that Utica’s general statements about the documents were insufficient to allow the court to “make the ‘specific, on-the-record findings’ required to seal judicial documents.”
Utica and Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. are on opposing sides of two related lawsuits regarding Utica’s attempt to seek reimbursement for asbestos claims under two reinsurance contracts. Both parties moved for summary judgment, and Utica moved to have numerous exhibits in support of these motions filed under seal on the basis that they contained privileged communications with in-house and/or outside attorneys, referred to such privileged information, or contained attorney’s handwritten notes protected by the work product doctrine.
The court began by describing the standards for such a sealing motion, noting the “strong presumption of access” that attaches to documents filed in connection with a summary judgment motion and that overcoming this presumption requires a party to provide facts sufficient to allow the court to make “specific, on-the-record findings . . . demonstrating the closure is essential to preserve higher values and narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” Utica’s explanations, the court found, were not specific enough to meet this standard. In its descriptions of attorney-client communications, the court found that Utica did not explain who all of the recipients were or show that the communications were intended to be or were kept confidential. Regarding attorney notes, the court found that Utica did not indicate whether they were fact or opinion work product. Similarly, the court found that Utica did not specify whether other documents it wished to file under seal were protected by attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine and otherwise failed to provide information sufficiently specific for the court to determine which documents contained protected information or to narrowly tailor a sealing order to protect that information. However, the court allowed Utica to file as exhibits certain briefs from prior litigation in the same redacted form that they were previously filed.