Defendant’s Motion to Compel Settlement Agreements Granted

Court: United States District Court for the District of Kansas

In this action, plaintiff Dennis Dickenson filed suit after being diagnosed with mesothelioma and subsequently settled with two companies. Defendant Henkel moved to compel any, and all, settlement agreements and communications relating to those settlements. The plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing he should not be required to turn over the settlement agreements and communications as such information is not discoverable.

Ultimately, the court granted a portion of Henkel’s motion seeking settlement agreements. Henkel argued the plaintiff asserted several of his claims against all defendants. The court cited Tanner v. Johnston and White v. Kennet Warren & Son for the proposition that “if a product manufacturer or distributor settled with Dickenson for an amount that is not inconsequential, such settlement could speak to that entity’s fault in causing Dickenson’s cancer and thereby lessen the likelihood that Henkel’s product-a deodorant-was a cause.” In addition, the settlement agreements may contain information about other entities that should “bear some responsibility for Dickenson’s mesothelioma,” as well as information about Henkel’s product at issue. 

The court rejected Dickenson’s contention that confidentiality provisions within the agreements should make the agreements not discoverable as “confidentiality does not bar discovery.” The court also noted the existence of a protective order previously entered in the matter. Finally, Dickenson’s argument that production of the agreement would give an advantage to defendants was rejected, as “courts have rejected the idea that revealing the terms of settlements with one co-defendant might impede settlement with other parties.” 

However, the court denied the portion of Henkel’s motion seeking the settlement communications as Henkel failed to set forth the particular information the communications may provide that would not be contained within the agreements.

As such, “[w]ithout any indication that settlement communications might provide different, relevant evidence, discovery of the communications cannot be deemed proportional.”

Thus, Henkel’s motion to compel was granted in part and denied in part.

Read the full decision here.