Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Is Pretrial Discovery of Sensitive Financial Information Relevant Only to Punitive Damages Appropriate or Premature, at Least Prior to Summary Judgment? Case Law Split

Bakhit v. Safety Marking, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125684 (D. Conn. Sept. 9, 2014):

The Court agrees that the information sought is generally discoverable to support a punitive damages claim. [*4]  Connors v. Pinkertons, Inc., No. 3:98 CV 699 (GLG), 1999 WL 66107, at *2 (D. Conn. Feb. 4, 1999). However, "Courts in this circuit are split on the issue of allowing pretrial disclosure of financial information relevant to a determination of punitive damages. Some permit it. Others have found that such disclosure is premature." McNamee v. Clemens, No. 09 CV 1647(SJ), 2013 WL 6572899, at *8 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2013) (citing Pasternak v. Dow Kim, 275 F.R.D. 461, 463 (S.D.N.Y 2011)). Recent cases in this circuit have moreover found that "pre-trial discovery of financial information is premature where the documents sought are "highly sensitive and confidential and where "the need for disclosure may be abrogated by motion." McNamee, 2013 WL 6572899, at *8 (citing Pasternak, 275 F.R.D. at 463; Copantitla v. Fiskardo Estiatorio, Inc., 09 CV 1608, 2010 WL 1327921, at *16 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 5, 2010)); see also Connors, 1999 WL 66107, at *2 (finding request for financial information premature, and that defendant need not produce the same until the case is trial-ready).

Here, defendants represent that the information sought is highly confidential and sensitive, and that defendants intend to file a motion for summary judgment on all counts relating to punitive damages. Under the present circumstances, the Court is persuaded by defendants’ arguments and case law that plaintiffs’ request for this information is premature. Accordingly, plaintiffs’ motion to compel production of defendant Safety Marking’s financial information [*5]  is DENIED on the current record, with leave to re-file after adjudication of defendants’ anticipated motion for summary judgment.

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