VAKIL v. MERCK & CO., INC. et al
OPINION & ORDER that Plaintiff's motion to redact portions of the Court's December 7, 2016 opinion (D.E. 93) is DENIED. The Clerk shall unseal D.E. 87 in its entirety. Signed by Judge John Michael Vazquez on 2/7/17. (cm )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 13-00080
OPINION & ORDER
BAYER HEALTHCARE, LLC, BAYER
CORPORATION, and BAYER HEALTHCARE
John Michael Vazguez, U.S.D.J.
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Shamik Vakil’s unopposed motion (D.E. 93) to redact
certain portions of the Court’s December 7, 2016 opinion granting summary judgment in favor of
Defendants Bayer Healthcare, LLC, Bayer Corporation, and Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals,
Inc. (collectively “Defendants”). In an abundance of caution, the Court filed the opinion under
seal because the underlying briefs and submissions had been sealed, and thus, allegedly sensitive
information may have been disclosed in the opinion. The Court ordered that the opinion would be
unsealed unless the parties filed a motion within two weeks setting forth the factual and legal basis
for keeping the opinion under seal. D.E. 89. On December 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to
maintain the entire opinion under seal (D.E. 90), which the Court denied (D.E. 92). On January
10, 2017, Plaintiff filed the current motion seeking to redact certain portions of the December 7,
Plaintiff claimed that he suffered personal injuries caused by the Defendants’ prescription
medication. For the most part, Plaintiff now seeks to seal the portions of the Court’s opinion
discussing Plaintiffs alleged injuries. As discussed further below, Plaintiff fails to cite any legal
authority supporting his argument, i.e., that personal injury plaintiffs may have their alleged
injuries sealed from the public docket.
There is a presumption against sealing judicial records. See L. Civ. R. 5.3(a)(4); Pansy v.
Borough ofStroitdsbttrg, 23 F.3d 772, 786 (3d Cir. 1994). Sealing of entire briefs and declarations
is rarely appropriate. See, e.g., Miller v. Indiana Hosp., 16 F.3d 549, 551 (3d Cir. 1994) (“A party
who seeks to seal an entire record faces an even heavier burden.”); In re fleetBoston Fin. Corp.
Sec. Litig., 253 F.R.D. 315, 323 n.7(D.N.J. 200$). Similarly, sealing portions ofajudicial opinion
is a high burden to overcome. Hick/in Eng ‘g, L. C. v. Bartell, 439 F.3d 346, 348-49 (7th Cir. 2006)
(explaining that it is “impossible to see any justification for issuing off-the-record opinions” in
common civil litigation); Carnegie Mellon Univ. v. Marvell Tech. Grp., Ltd., No. 09-290, 2013
WL 1674190, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 17, 2013) (explaining that “civil proceedings cannot effectively
operate if huge swaths ofjudicial opinion and hearing transcripts are subject to redaction” and that
“[un order for the courts to “talk” to litigants and for the public to fully understand a court’s
precedent’ courts need to disclose the information, even if confidential, that is subject of the
adjudication” (quoting Mosaid Technologies Inc. v. LSI Corp., 878 F.Supp.2d 503, 513 (D.Del.
Here, Plaintiff has requested certain portions of the Court’s December 7, 2017 opinion to
be redacted. D.E. 93-2. Plaintiff argues that the parts of the opinion “describing Plaintiffs medical
history, diagnosis, and treatment” should be redacted pursuant to Local Rule of Civil Procedure
5.2(17), which provides that “caution must be exercised when filing documents that contain.
[m]edical records, treatment, and diagnoses.” Id. Plaintiff claims that failing to remove details of
Plaintiffs medical condition may “have the capacity to negatively affect [his] profession and
future endeavors.” Id. However, aside from citing the Local Rules, Plaintiff has provided the
Court with no authority to support redacting parts of the opinion under these circumstances, that
is, alleged injuries suffered by a personal injury plaintiff. Plaintiff has not pointed to a single case
where the court permanently redacted portions of an opinion simply because it disclosed the
plaintiffs alleged injuries in a tort case. Therefore, Plaintiff has not met his burden in overcoming
the presumption that “all materials and judicial proceedings are matters of public record and shall
not be sealed.” See L. Civ. R. 5.3(a)(4). Plaintiffs motion is denied. For good cause shown,
IT IS on this 7th day of February 2017,
ORDERED that Plaintiffs motion to redact portions of the Court’s December 7, 2016
opinion (D.E. 93) is DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall unseal D.E. 87 in its entirety.
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