Records of Dangerous Fire Causing TV One Step Closer to Release

Civil Procedure—Permissive Post-Judgment Intervention Timing

Zenith Electronics Cor. V Balliner, __Az. Adv. Rep. __ 1 CA-SA 08-0282 (App. Div. I, March 5, 2009) (Justice Weisberg).

PUBLIC INTEREST ORGANIZATION PERMITTED TO INTERVENE IN WRONGFUL DEATH ACTION AFTER SETTLEMENT AND DISMISSAL TO CHALLENGE PROTECTIVE ORDER ON PRODUCT SAFETY INFORMATION.

A surviving daughter sued Zenith for manufacturing an allegedly defective television which caused a fire killing her father. Zenith produced 22,000 pages of internal records including design documents subject to a hard fought for protective order in the litigation. A month after settlement and the entry of judgment on dismissal with prejudice in the case Public Citizen moved to intervene pursuant to Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 24 (b) to argue for the overturning of the protective order and the dissemination of what Public Citizen claimed was information important to the public safety concerning these fire prone televisions.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's decision to allow the intervention where the party seeking to intervene can show she acted promptly after learning of the settlement, was acting in the public's health interest and was not causing any disruption of the settlement or harm to the original parties to the action. The intervention was further enhanced by the fact that Public Citizen's intervention shared a common question of law and fact with the underlying action: “the propriety of the protective order and the extent it could be modified at this stage of the proceeding.”

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