United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
STEVE WILLIAMSON and RHONDA CHRISTINE LEMASTER, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
S.A. GEAR COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants.
G. WILKERSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Motion for Permission to
File Under Seal or Alternatively for Protective Order filed
by Defendants AutoZone, Inc., AutoZone Stores, LLC, and
AutoZone Parts, Inc. (collectively referred to as the
“AutoZone Defendants”) (Doc. 130) and the Motion
to Place Documents under Seal or for Other Relief and Request
to Expedite filed by Plaintiffs (Doc. 186). For the reasons
set forth below, the AutoZone Defendants' motion to seal
is GRANTED and Plaintiffs' motion to
seal is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
April 26, 2017, the AutoZone Defendants filed a motion
seeking permission to file under seal certain confidential
documents in support of their memorandum in opposition to
Plaintiff's motion for class certification. The AutoZone
Defendants generally indicated that they intended to file the
declarations of Scott Brack and Larry Arthur, employees of
AutoZone, Inc., in which they address confidential,
proprietary business information including internal claims
procedures, warranty processes, and sales information. These
Defendants assert that this information is non-public,
proprietary and commercially sensitive business information.
objected to Defendants' motion on May 10, 2017 arguing
Defendants' motion is devoid of any explanation
concerning how or why any of its documents constitute trade
secrets. Plaintiffs also argued that the AutoZone
Defendants' motion is moot insofar as they forfeited
confidentiality claims when they produced the relevant
documents without ever requesting a protective order from the
AutoZone Defendants filed a reply brief on May 17, 2017 that
sufficiently identified the exceptional circumstances that
necessitated said filing - mainly they filed their motion
prior to submitting their opposition brief and, as such, had
not yet finalized the evidence that would require
confidential treatment. Accordingly, in their reply brief,
Defendants delineated the documents they seek to protect and
set forth their argument as to why said documents should be
sealed. Plaintiffs filed a motion to strike Defendants'
reply which the Court denied on July 26, 2017. In its Order,
the Court granted Plaintiffs leave to file a sur-reply to
Defendants' motion to seal. Plaintiffs did not file a
the Seventh Circuit avers that “[i]nformation that
affects the disposition of litigation belongs in the public
record unless a statute or privilege justifies nondisclosure,
” United States v. Foster, 564 F.3d 852, 853
(7th Cir. 2009), it also recognizes that documents that
contain information that meets the definition of trade secret
or other confidential information may be sealed. Id.
In this instance, the AutoZone Defendants have identified
discrete documents that they assert include confidential,
proprietary business information regarding AutoZone's
unique internal claims procedures, warranty processes, and
sales information. Based on a review of the identified
documents, and in light of Plaintiffs' failure to file a
sur-reply setting forth any argument to the contrary, the
Court agrees. The particular documents identified by
Defendants contain vendor agreements, internal sales tracking
data and proprietary business information concerning
processes and procedures for handling particular
claims. The Court finds that said information
constitutes the definition of “trade secret”
considered by the Seventh Circuit in Foster. For
these reasons, the AutoZone Defendants' Motion for
Permission to File under Seal (Doc. 130) is
remaining issue is how to effectuate this Court's
decision. A review of the docket in this matter demonstrates
a concerning practice insofar as the parties have filed
various documents under seal without seeking permission from
this Court. In particular, Plaintiffs filed all of their
exhibits in support of their motion for class certification
under seal (see Doc. 124). There was no accompanying
motion to file under seal. The AutoZone Defendants also filed
all of their exhibits under seal, albeit while their motion
to file under seal was pending (see Doc. 135). By
way of this Order, the Court has ruled that good cause has
been established to keep only the following documents related
to class certification briefing under seal:
1. Exhibits 1-2 to the Declaration of Scott Brack, Doc.
135-4, pp. 7-24.
2. Paragraphs 5-10 to the Declaration of Larry Arthur, Doc.
3. Exhibit 1 to the Declaration of Larry Arthur, Doc. 135-3,
4. Plaintiff's Exhibit 15 in support of their Motion for
Class Certification, Doc. 124-15.
5. Plaintiff's Exhibit 16 in support of their Motion for
Class Certification, Doc. 124-16.
6. Plaintiff's Exhibit 17 in support of their Motion for
Class Certification, Doc. 124-17.
7. Plaintiff's Exhibit 20 in support of their Motion for