SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES - CENTRAL DISTRICT
ELEANOR MILLER, Plaintiff(s), vs. PRINCESS CRUISE LINES, LTD, ET AL., Defendant(s).
Case No.: BC694352
[TENTATIVE] ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER RESPONSES
August 22, 2019
Plaintiff sought disclosure of any documents identifying individuals who have suffered injuries or made complaints about the lounge chair in which she was injured or any similar lounge chair. Defendant provided five prior incident reports, but redacted all identifying information. At this time, Plaintiff seeks an order compelling Defendant to produce the reports without the redactions.
The parties met and conferred, and also participated in an IDC. At the conclusion of the IDC, the Court indicated it believes the subject information is discoverable. The parties failed, however, to reach an agreement, and the motion is going forward at this time.
Although disclosure may invade their privacy, there is generally no protection for the identity, addresses and phone numbers of percipient witnesses. Thus, a court may not require the party seeking discovery to obtain the witnesses' consent to disclosure: “[A] percipient witness's willingness to participate in civil discovery has never been considered relevant—witnesses may be compelled to appear and testify whether they want to or not.” Puerto v. Superior Court (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1251-1252.
The above rule is subject to certain limitations:
· A protective order may issue where disclosure of a witness' identity or contact information could subject the witness to physical danger. Id. at 1254.
· Moreover, a protective order may limit the discovering party's use and dissemination of a witness' contact information. Id. at 1259.
While the non-parties at issue in this case are not percipient witnesses to Plaintiff’s actual fall, they are percipient witnesses to any problem that exists with the type of lounge chair on which Plaintiff was injured. The Court therefore finds their identities are discoverable. The Court is inclined to impose a protective order requiring Plaintiff’s attorney to limit use of the contact information received to this action only.
The Court notes that Defendant argues, in opposition to the motion, that the Court should require Defense Counsel to notify the witnesses prior to disclosing their identifying information and permitting them to object to the disclosure. The cases Defendant cites, however, deal with potential class members, not with percipient witnesses. The cases are therefore not apposite to the issue in this case.
The motion is granted. Defendant is ordered to produce the unredacted witness reports within ten days. The Court notes that neither party seeks imposition of sanctions in connection with the motion or opposition, and none are imposed.
Plaintiff is ordered to give notice.
Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the court at [email protected] indicating intention to submit on the tentative as directed by the instructions provided on the court website at www.lacourt.org. If the department does not receive an email indicating the parties are submitting on the tentative and there are no appearances at the hearing, the motion may be placed off calendar. If a party submits on the tentative, the party’s email must include the case number and must identify the party submitting on the tentative.