NIAGARA INDUSTRIES, INC. and RHEEM SALES COMPANY, Petitioners,
GIAQUINTO ELECTRIC LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, GUARDIAN AMERICAN PROPERTIES, LLC, f/k/a GUARDIAN AMERICAN RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES OF BROWARD COUNTY, LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, H20 PLUMBING SERVICES, INC., a Florida Corporation, FUENMAYOR & LINDA ENTERPRISES, LLC, d/b/a ACE FLOOD & INSPECTIONS, LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, MARK BECKERMAN, individually, and SCOTT WESLEY FRANK, Sr., individually, Respondents.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
for writ of certiorari to the Circuit Court for the
Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Patti
Englander-Henning, Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE 16-11632 05.
H. Tutt, Thomas J. McCausland, and Evan Roberts of Conroy
Simberg, Hollywood, for Petitioners.
M. Schwarz of Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A., Plantation,
for Respondent H20 Plumbing Services, Inc.
R. Goldsmith of Glen R. Goldsmith, P.A., Miami, for
Respondent Giaquinto Electric, LLC. Armando P. Rubio of
Fields Howell LLP, Miami, for Respondent Guardian American
proceeding, the Petitioners-Niagara Industries, Inc. and
Rheem Sales Company-challenge the second prong of the
two-part test for disclosure of trade secrets. The issue
before us is whether the production of material containing
trade secrets was "reasonably necessary." We
conclude the circuit court departed from the essential
requirements of law when it ordered the Petitioners to
disclose their trade secrets, because the party requesting
the disclosure failed to present any evidence to establish
that the production of the privileged information was
reasonably necessary. We therefore quash the order.
Wesley Frank, Sr. purchased a tankless water heater from
Rheem Sales Company, and designed by Niagara Industries, Inc.
At some point later, Mr. Frank experienced problems with the
water heater and hired H2O Plumbing Services, Inc. While an
employee of H20 repaired the water heater, it exploded,
causing Mr. Frank physical injury. As a result of the
injuries, he filed a four-count complaint against the
Petitioners, asserting claims of negligence and strict
liability against both.
the pendency of Mr. Frank's lawsuit against the
Petitioners, the court required them to disclose what they
describe as "their confidential and highly confidential
documents, including Niagara's trade secrets, relating to
the manufacturing and testing of the subject tankless water
heater." Pursuant to a protective order that permitted
only certain people to view them, the Petitioners disclosed
the documents. Testimony indicates the documents were
disclosed to a total of four people. The case proceeded to a
jury trial; however, the documents were not presented to the
jury. Prior to the jury returning a verdict, the parties
filed a stipulation of dismissal, which the court accepted.
At the conclusion of the case, the previously-disclosed
documents were returned to the Petitioners.
the dismissal of the lawsuit against the Petitioners, Mr.
Frank filed a new lawsuit against Giaquinto Electric, which
he later amended to add claims against Guardian American
Properties, LLC, H20 Plumbing Services, Inc., Fuenmayor &
Linda Enterprises, LLC, and Mark Beckerman.
American Properties, LLC, one of the defendants in the second
lawsuit, served a notice of production from non-parties and a
subpoena duces tecum without deposition, indicating they
intended to seek various documents from the Petitioners.
Among the documents at issue were those contained in the
seventy-ninth category of documents sought, which asked for
those documents from Mr. Frank's first lawsuit: "Any
and all documents received pursuant to any subpoenas and/or
request for copies in the case Scott Wesley Frank v. Niagara
Industries, Inc. and Rheem Sales, Case. No. CACE 15-002998
(03)." Later, H2O Plumbing, another defendant in the
second lawsuit, served a notice of intent to subpoena similar
Petitioners timely objected to the notices of production and
the subpoenas. In their objections, they argued that: the
documents contained trade secrets; the water heater's
failure was not the result of a defectively-manufactured or
defectively-designed product; and that Guardian and H2O, the
requesting parties, was merely on a "fishing
expedition" to escape an incident resulting from its
installation of the water heater.
court held an evidentiary hearing on the Petitioners'
objections. The only witness to testify at the hearing was
the owner of Niagara Industries, who testified that the
release of the trade secrets "would be devastating"
to his company. He also answered questions regarding the
Petitioners' belief as to the cause of the water
heater's explosion. Guardian and H2O relied ...