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Overton v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S., LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 9, 2014

LISA OVERTON, MERRIBET BAZZEL, and KAREN FULLER, individually, and on behalf of all class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
SANOFI-AVENTIS U.S., LLC d/b/a SANOFI U.S. Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DOUGLAS E. ARPERT, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on a Motion by defendant Sanofi-Aventis-U.S., LLC ("Defendant") to file under seal certain documents [Dkt. No. 16]; specifically portions Defendant's Memorandum in Support of its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("the Memo") [Dkt. No. 15-1]; portions of the Declaration of Mark Loreaux ("Loreaux Declaration") [Dkt. No. 15-3]; the entirety of Exhibits A through G of the Loreaux Declaration [Dkt. No. 15-3]; and the entirety of Exhibit A to the Declaration of Rick Schirmer ("Schirmer Declaration") [Dkt. No. 15-4]. Plaintiffs Lisa Overton, Merribeth Bazzel, and Karen Fuller, individually and on behalf of the class (collectively "Plaintiffs"), oppose Defendant's Motion. For the reasons specified below, Defendant's Motion to Seal is GRANTED.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to L. Civ. R. 5.3(c)(2), a party seeking to seal or otherwise restrict public access to documents must describe:

(a) the nature of the materials or proceedings at issue;
(b) the legitimate private or public interests which warrant the relief sought;
(c) the clearly defined and serious injury that would result if the relief sought is not granted; and
(d) why a less restrictive alternative to the relief sought is not available.

L. Civ. R. 5.3(c)(2); see also Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg , 23 F.3d 772, 786 (3d Cir. 1994)); Novo Nordisk A/S v. Sanofi-Aventis United States LLC, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7958 (D.N.J. 2008); Skinner v. Ashan, 2007 WL 708972, at *2 (D.N.J. 2007). Importantly, "[t]he balancing of the factors for and against access is a decision committed to the discretion of the district court... although it is not generally accorded the narrow review reserved for discretionary decisions based on first-hand observations...." Bank of Am. Nat'l Trust & Say. Ass'n v. Hotel Rittenhouse Assocs. , 800 F.2d 339, 344 (3d Cir. 1986).

II. DISCUSSION

Defendant contends that the at-issue documents contain sensitive business information which, if made available to the public, could be used by Defendant's competitors to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Def.'s Brief at pp. 3-5, Dkt. No. 16-1. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion on essentially three grounds. First, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant has not specifically identified what material is proprietary nor explained why it is so. Pl.'s Brief at p. 5, Dkt. No. 19. Second, Plaintiffs assert that Defendant has not clearly defined the injury that would result if the documents are not sealed. Id. at 6. Lastly, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant would not suffer any injury if the documents were made available to the public. Id . Analyzing the factors set forth under the Local Rules, the Court finds that Defendant has shown good cause and satisfied the requirements of Local Rule 5.3(c)(2) and, therefore, that the at-issue documents should be sealed.

A. Nature of the Materials

Under Local Rule 5.3(c)(2), the moving party must first explain the nature of the materials at issue. L. Civ. R. 5.3(c)(2). Here, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant has not specifically identified what material is propriety nor explained why it is so. Pl.'s Brief at p. 5. The Court disagrees. As explained by Defendant, the documents at issue reveal information regarding Defendant's 2012 Incentive Compensation Plan, Incentive Compensation Plan Policy, and Inventive Compensation Plan Roll-out, as well as screenshots detailing the precise amount of Plaintiffs' compensation. Def.'s Reply Brief at 2, Dkt. No. 21. According to Defendant, this is highly-sensitive proprietary information, in that it reveals the terms of Defendant's non-public strategy for compensating its sales representatives, the rules governing the earning and payment of that ...


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