United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
SHIRLEY DEPARI, EXECUTRIX, OF THE ESTATE OF LUIGI DEPARI, Plaintiff,
JESSE RUNYON, et al, Defendants.
F. Saporito, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the court on the motion to intervene by
Christine Rutkowski, Thomas Rutkowski, and Matthew Rutkowski,
individually and as administrators of the estate of Thomas
Rutkowski (the “Rutkowskis”). (Doc. 77). The sole
purpose of the motion is to seek an order unsealing documents
filed with the court. Also, before us is the Rutkowskis'
motion to unseal court filings. (Doc. 79).
Statement of Facts
wrongful death and survival action arises out of the death of
plaintiff's decedent, Luigi Depari, as a result of a
motor vehicle accident that occurred on November 18, 2016, on
Interstate 80 in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. The plaintiff
initiated this action by the filing of a complaint in this
court on April 28, 2017. (Doc. 1). Counsel for the defendants
informed the court that the parties resolved this case. (Doc.
60). On November 15, 2018, we entered an order dismissing the
action with the right to reinstate the action if the
settlement was not consummated within sixty days. (Doc. 61).
Thereafter, we granted the request of counsel to extend the
time for consummation of settlement to one hundred days from
December 17, 2018. (Doc. 61; Doc. 62; Doc. 63).
January 17, 2019, the plaintiff filed a motion to file a
document under seal (Doc. 64), which we granted by order
dated January 23, 2019. On January 24, 2019, the plaintiff
filed, under seal, a petition for approval of settlement of
wrongful death and survival actions and allocation of
settlement proceeds. (Doc. 67). On January 29, 2019, the
plaintiff filed, under seal, a praecipe to supplement
exhibits on petition. (Doc. 71). On February 7, 2019, the
parties jointly filed, under seal, an amendment to the
petition of the plaintiff for approval of settlement of
wrongful death and survival actions and allocation of
settlement proceeds and for temporary sealing of the
petition. (Doc. 73).
entered an order on the parties' joint amended petition
for approval of settlement which approved the settlement and
granted the motion to seal all petitions for approval of
settlement together with the general release executed by the
parties. The order sealed these records for the duration of
pending related Pennsylvania state court actions or for a
period of twenty-four months, whichever first occurs. (doc.
March 14, 2019, the Rutkowskis filed a motion to intervene
for the sole purpose of seeking to unseal documents filed
with the court (Doc. 77), and a motion to unseal court
filings (Doc. 79). The plaintiff and the defendants jointly
oppose the motions. (Doc. 81; Doc. 82). After the parties and
the Rutkowskis filed their respective briefs, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed
similar issues in In re Avandia Marketing Sales Practices
and Products Liability Litigation, 924 F.3d 662 (3d Cir.
2019). We directed the parties and the Rutkowskis to file
supplemental briefs and scheduled oral argument for June 25,
2019. (Doc. 86). The matter has been briefed and oral
argument was heard on June 25, 2019, as previously ordered.
The matter is now ripe for a decision.
order to prevail on a Rule 24(b)(1)(B) motion for permissive
intervention, the moving party must satisfy two requirements:
(1) the motion must be timely; and (2) the moving party must
have a claim or defense that shares with the main action a
common question of law or fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
24(b)(1)(B); see also Brody v. Spang, 957 F.2d 1108,
1115 (3d Cir.1992). As discussed below, “[t]hese
requirements have been interpreted flexibly when a non-party
seeks intervention for the limited purpose of modifying a
protective [or confidentiality] order.” In re
Linerboard Antitrust Litig., 333 F.Supp.2d 333, 339
(E.D. Pa. 2004).
Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg, the Third
Circuit-adopting the reasoning of the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals in Beckman Industries, Inc. v. International
Insurance Co.-stated that “the same legal theory
[that was raised in the main action], is not required when
intervenors are not becoming parties to the litigation. There
is no reason to require such a strong nexus of fact or law
when a party seeks to intervene only for the purpose of
modifying a protective [or confidentiality] order.” 23
F.3d at 772, 778 (3d Cir. 1994)(quoting Beckman, 966
F.2d 470, 474 (9th Cir. 1992)(second alteration added)). The
Third Circuit explained that a party seeking intervention
meets the requirement of Rule 24(b)(1)(B) by virtue of the
fact that it challenges the validity of the confidentiality
order entered in the main action. See id.
requirement that the motion be timely filed “has also
been interpreted broadly in the context of modifying
protective [or confidentiality] orders.”
Linerboard, 333 F.Supp.2d at 339. In Pansy,
the Third Circuit explained that there is a “growing
consensus among the courts of appeals that intervention to
challenge confidentiality orders may take place long after a
case has been terminated” or “after the
underlying dispute between the parties has long been
settled.” 23 F.3d at 779 (quoting Leucadia, Inc. v.
Applied Extrusion Tech., Inc., 998 F.2d 157 (3d Cir.
1993) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Motion to Unseal
rules which govern this court's consideration of the
confidentiality of court documents were recently delineated
by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Avandia.
Because the settlement of this case involves the resolution
and/or compromise of claims filed on behalf of the
decedent's estate, court approval of the settlement is
statutorily required. See 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 3323. Accordingly, the petition for court approval of
this settlement was required to be filed as part of the
official court record. We recognize that the presumption in
this circuit is that there exists a right of public access to
judicial proceedings and judicial records. Bank of Am.
Nat'l Tr. & Sav. Ass'n v. Hotel Rittenhouse
Assocs., 800 F.2d 339, 344 (3d Cir. 1986);
Littlejohn v. Bic Corp., 851 F.2d 673, 677-78 (3d
Cir. 1988). The court possesses discretion in deciding
whether the presumption of public access has been overcome;
however, confidentiality orders cannot be granted
capriciously. Calvert v. Gen. Accident Ins. Co., No.
Civ. A 99-3599, 2000 WL 124570, at *8 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 2,
the strong presumption in favor of accessibility of judicial
records, our circuit permits the sealing of documents in
appropriate circumstances “when justice so
requires.” Leap Sys., Inc. v. Moneytrax, Inc.,
638 F.3d 216, 221 (3d Cir. 2011). The party seeking the
sealing order, bears the burden to overcome the presumption
of access to show that the interest in secrecy outweighs the
presumption. Id. at 221-22 (quoting In re
Cendant Corp. 260 F.3d 183, 190 (3d Cir. 2001)); see
also E.E.O.C. v. Kronos Inc., 620 F.3d 287, 302 (3d Cir.
2010) (“The burden of justifying confidentiality
remains at all times on the party seeking the order.”).
delineated three distinct standards when considering various
challenges to the confidentiality of documents.
Discovery Materials ...